The Greens have rebuffed Labor’s last-ditch concessions on the housing fund as crunch time approaches for the federal government’s signature housing policy.
In a letter to crossbench senators, Housing Minister Julie Collins said the government would make key changes to the bill, including dumping the $500 million cap for earnings distributed to housing.
Under the changes, there will be a fixed disbursement of $500 million per year from 2024/25, which will also be indexed from 2029/30.
The annual disbursement amount could be increased in future years by the treasurer or finance minister.
Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather said the changes would close a “glaring loophole” that could have allowed no money to be spent in some years.
He said the government had not addressed either of the minor party’s two key concerns – more funding for social and affordable housing than promised under the housing fund legislation and freezing or capping rent increases.
“Let’s be clear, what the government is proposing is not to spend any money for 12 months time and then only $500 million, not index it for six years – so lock in real term cuts for six years – and not build a single home until 2025,” he told Sky News.
“That is not a response to the worst housing crisis this country has faced in generations.”
He said the minor party would keep negotiating in “good faith”.
But time is running out, with the bill due to hit the Senate in the upcoming sitting fortnight.
Ms Collins told ABC News the government had moved on all eight of the issues raised by the crossbench in the Senate.
She said the fund was not the government’s only response to the housing crisis, with the Commonwealth spending more than $8 billion on housing and homelessness this financial year.
“And this is on top of what states and territories are spending in terms of housing – social housing particularly – right across the country,” she said.
Ms Collins said the Commonwealth did not have the power to freeze or cap rents and some states and territories had already ruled it out.
“We also, of course, have data and evidence that this doesn’t work and it actually puts downward pressure on supply,” she said.
The $10 billion housing fund was the single-biggest investment in social and affordable housing from a federal government in more than a decade, Ms Collins said.
The fund would be invested to generate returns, which would subsidise 30,000 affordable homes a year.
“Any further delay will mean people in need will wait longer for the homes the Housing Australia Future Fund will provide, including women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women at risk of homelessness,” Ms Collins said.
The government is looking to pass the housing fund bill in the next fortnight before parliament adjourns for two months.