Roads, rail, hospitals, schools are all defined as ‘essential infrastructure’; vital for the function of society. In the lead up to the state election, uncosted infrastructure projects were thrown on the table with gay abandon.
Politicians in hi-vis made dramatic claims about the benefits of multi-billion projects that will be decades in the making. Roads, rail, hospitals…defining something as ‘essential infrastructure’ is like sprinkling it with magic fairy dust – it’s ‘essential’ so they promise it now, and find the money later.
But what can be more essential and beneficial to a society than housing? If you don’t have a safe, appropriate place to call home, how can you hold down a job, go to school, contribute to your community?
Leading planning and economics firm SGS Economics & Planning agrees, with its research finding that reinstating social housing as essential infrastructure is needed ‘for a prosperous and inclusive Australia’. SGS has estimated every $1 outlaid by governments in social housing would generate a $3 social, environmental and economic return.
And AHURI has released a new report backing the call for housing to be considered essential infrastructure, and modelling five alternative pathways to funding social housing.
More than over 60,000 households in our state are in limbo, waiting for social housing. This includes 22,000 with urgent housing needs – women and families escaping family violence, homeless and elderly Victorians.
Whilst an additional 3,000 social housing properties annually for 10 years won’t fix this housing crisis, it is the minimum required to meet the housing needs of Victorians eligible for priority housing.
We know a building program of this scale is achievable, community housing organisations built 2,500 homes with Nation Building funds almost a decade ago – which was the last time Victoria implemented a significant social housing supply program.
As an added benefit, that social housing program created thousands of construction jobs and reduced the costs to our health service, justice system and emergency services that are a side effect of the housing crisis.
It’s time to acknowledge social housing is essential infrastructure and treat it a ‘must’ rather than a ‘nice to have’. And bring on that fairy dust.
Click here to download the AHURI report.