Peak body calls for further spend on social housing

April 1, 2023 BY

A building lobby group is calling on the State Government to spend more on social housing construction as private new home work slows.

Master Builders Victoria is calling for urgent investment in social and affordable housing in Victoria, as the latest building approvals data show the residential building pipeline continues to decline steadily.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data released last week recorded a total of just 61,668 new residential building approvals in the 12 months to January.

With 36,765 single dwelling home approvals recorded, that represented a 20.4 per cent drop from the previous 12 months and 24,903 multi-dwelling building approvals saw a 4.3 per cent fall from the previous year.

According to interim Master Builders Victoria CEO Michaela Lihou, the building and construction industry needs a pipeline of future work, while at the same time there is an obvious need for social and affordable housing.

“We have seen rising inflation and ongoing interest rate rises creating a significant downturn in construction demand across our industry,” she said.

“At the same time builders are being squeezed with escalating costs for the projects that they do have, because they are largely unable to recoup unavoidable increases with fixed price contracts, supply and labour shortages.

“Our industry has demonstrated extraordinary resilience but needs a strong pipeline of future work to support the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Victorian workers.

“And we can see a solution that not only gives our industry a lifeline, but could also play a part in resolving Victoria’s social and affordable housing crisis.

“We need more social and affordable housing, and the building industry needs ongoing work. Surely, that’s worth continuing to invest in?”

Data from the latest Department of Families, Fairness and Housing annual report shows there were 86,887 social housing dwellings across Victoria as of June 30, 2022, a net increase of just 74 since June 30, 2018, when there were 86,813.

At the same time the social housing waitlist has grown by about 45 per cent, from about 44,000 applications in June 2018 to 64,168 in June 2022.

More than 40 per cent of applicants were on the priority waitlist last June.

“ABS figures now show 30,660 people were homeless in Victoria during the 2021 census, which was about a 24 per cent increase since 2016,” Ms Lihou said.

“We can see we have a social and affordable housing crisis which is not showing any sign of slowing down, while at the other extreme we have Victorian builders who need a pipeline of work.

“We would very much like to see the Victorian Government reconsider the speed and scale of its investment in social and affordable housing, which could deliver a clear win/win for hundreds of thousands of Victorians.”