“We need a definition for affordable housing” said at least two panel members at the UDIA / Community Housing Federation forum (‘Delivering Affordable Housing’) on Wednesday 1 February 2017 in Melbourne.

So, after many years of concern and discussion on this topic of ever increasing importance, we are told we need a definition – round and round it goes!

There was little new that came out of the forum, opened by Treasurer Tim Pallas, who spent the first part of his speech being a typical politician (bagging the Federal Government – that just happens to be on the other side of the political fence) and the second part talking about his / the Victorian Government initiatives.  Most were laudable but few addressed in any direct way the forum topic, other than as these initiatives address total living costs.

Some of the issues / problems raised by the panel (Damien Tangey, UDIA Victoria; Nicola Foxworthy, Common Equity Housing Limited; Brett Wake, Community Housing Federation Victoria, Dean Rzechta, 94Feet and Sean Hogan, ISPT Pty Ltd) included:

  • good supply of land under residential zones verses significant lags in such land being approved for housing development;
  • ‘affordable housing’ verses ‘attainable housing’;
  • ‘affordable housing’ verses housing needing subsidy;
  • inconclusionary zoning (to require affordable housing) being useless with the funding stream being in place to implement it;
  • housing (and particulary affordable housing) needing to be seen as ‘infrastructure’ and given its fair priority with other infrastructure such as roads and public transport;
  • the fiduciary duties of investment fund providers and their inability to subsidise housing;
  • funding and taxation regimes and the impact on housing;
  • the noted but long – awaited Melbourne (sorry, Victorian) housing strategy (“a few weeks away”) and whether it will do anything to help set up solutions to housing affordability;
  • the complexity of the problem being the reason little has occurred in there way of solutions.

It was interesting that for such a complex issue whose solutions include clearly the need for the regulators, financiers and providers to work together, in the summation by the Chair of Community Housing Federation, she thanked the Treasurer, said the solutions needed “a whole of government approach”, encouraged Federal Government involvement but did not mention the panel members and made no mention of the role of the commercial housing sector, despite three of the panellists being from that sector – but perhaps this is nit picking.

I left the forum with the clear view that it again was a discussion of the problems but with very little on “delivering” affordable housing – but perhaps I am being too cynical?