Waive WA's Housing Debt


UPDATE: 22/10/2019. WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt MLA has now formally written to Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg MP asking for almost $400 million in debts dating back to the 1950s be scrapped. In the letter reported on by The West Australian Mr Wyatt told Mr Frydenberg that there was "significant strain" on the local housing industry, with construction at its lowest point since 2001 and the cancelled debts would release funds for spending.

Mr Wyatt indicated that if the Commonwealth was unwilling to remove the entire debt it could renegotiate the terms of the loans to reflect current low interest rates.

Our Chief Executive Officer Michelle Mackenzie appeared on Today Tonight (WA) to speak about the news. Ms Mackenzie thanked the Treasurer for his commitment to put any savings into homelessness services, but reiterated further investment was needed for both services and housing.

Click on the Monday 21 October edition of Today Tonight to watch the story.

It's time to waive Western Australia's Housing Debt.

Shelter WA was pleased to hear the WA Treasurer call on the Commonwealth Government to waive Western Australia’s housing debt, in response to their wavering of Tasmania’s housing debt.

Together the states and territories owe over around $2 billion to the Commonwealth in housing loans.

As of 30 June 2018 Western Australia has a total housing related debt of around $323.6M, the second-largest housing debt to the Commonwealth. The Treasurer has stated this debt costs the State $18.2 million in interest and $17 million in principal repayments this year alone.

Hon. Ben Wyatt MLA Treasurer; Minister for Finance; Aboriginal Affairs; Lands. Pic: Ben Wyatt Facebook.

The Tasmanian Minister for Housing stated that wiping the debt will save up to $15 million annually for Tasmania over coming years in debt and interest payments, which they will use instead to build more social housing, estimating this could mean around 80 more houses for people on the social housing waiting list across Tasmania. With over 14,000 people on the waitlist for social housing, thousands of people experiencing homelessness every night, and a critical need for investment in housing on remote Aboriginal communities, Western Australia desperately needs new funding into social and affordable housing supply.

Prior to the introduction of the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) in 2008, and, more recently, the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA), the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement (CSHA) was the main means through which the Australian Government, along with the state and territory governments, provided funding for public housing. Under the CSHA the Commonwealth made advances to the states from 1945 to the mid- to late-1980s to provide financial assistance for building new public housing and low interest loans to home builders, as well as a range of other housing-related purposes. The loans were provided at a fixed interest rate discounted from the long-term prevailing market rate and the repayments structured so as to allow the loans to be fully repaid over a term of 53 years.

The Commonwealth have waivered other State debts in the past, including that of South Australia in 2013.

Shelter WA supports the wavering of debt if these funds are used to increase access to social housing, homelessness, and improve housing supply.

Further information on State debts can be found here.

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