Home Tasmania Could Tasmania become Australia’s Finland and end Homelessness?

Could Tasmania become Australia’s Finland and end Homelessness?

  • August 16, 2023
  • by Robert Pradolin, Founder and Director, Housing All Australians and a Board member of Homes Tasmania
Founder and Director, Housing All Australians and a Board member of Homes Tasmania Robert Pradolin

I am a capitalist! But it does not mean I do not care about vulnerable people.

In fact, there are many businesspeople in Australia that share the same value. This is why Housing All Australians was established as a private sector voice, looking at housing and homelessness through an economic and business lens.

Homelessness is the canary in the coal mine to a much more substantial issue throughout the housing continuum, which is currently playing out with unaffordable rentals and escalating house prices.

In July 2022, Housing All Australians published a report called “Give me Shelter,” which quantified the long-term costs of undersupplying public, social, and affordable housing in Australia reaching an additional $25 billion PA by 2032 and growing.

The size of the housing problem confronting Australia was calculated by federal government actuaries as $290 billion and was presented in the 2021 Chris Leptos’ review of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC).

So, why haven’t we used this number to develop a long-term housing strategy that would create the essential housing infrastructure needed for a prosperous Australia? Why are governments so averse to setting meaningful and ambitious goals like this? The sheer magnitude of the problem, and the realistic solutions, intimidates politicians from all sides, making it seem too daunting and unattainable. As a result, we never take the first step. The can just gets kicked down the road and the problem gets worse, leaving an economic and social time bomb for future generations to face.

Governments at all levels are now realising we need to increase housing supply. But even if everyone agrees to do this today, it will take several years to bring new supply to the market, and decades for it to have real impact. That is why we need a national housing strategy with short, medium, and long term goals.

At Housing All Australians, we do not have all the solutions, however, together with our growing list of value aligned corporate partners, we are taking action in the following ways:

Short term – let’s make use of the vacant buildings that are waiting for their development approvals. This is not a long term solution, but an immediate way to use “existing infrastructure” while we build the homes our country needs. Currently, Housing All Australians has close to 150 rooms, in several empty buildings, in both Melbourne and Perth either completed or under refurbishment. There are 1000’s of empty buildings lying vacant across Australia that can be used for short term transitional shelter.

Medium term – We have created our own affordable housing model that uses the NRAS governance principles to allow qualified people to apply for below market rents. As part of this model, we are developing a digital Affordable Housing Register that will allow local government to monitor compliance of all stakeholders. The creation of this Register will unlock private sector capital to drive affordable housing.

Long Term – If the figure of $290 billion seems overwhelming, and we can put aside our parochial sentiment, perhaps we can be bold and target to end homelessness in one state and use that as a pilot for Australia and measure the resulting benefits to help shape future housing policy. It is not impossible. What about Tasmania?

Tasmania is the only state that is about to have a Housing Strategy that acknowledges the solution rests in addressing the entire housing continuum.  Tasmania is already in a unique position as the government has committed to constructing 10,000 homes by 2032 while the public housing waiting list stands at around 4,500. No other state is in this position.

With the assistance of the federal government, ending homelessness in Tasmania is possible and could pave the way to examine and measure the economic and social benefits of ending homelessness. Tasmania already serves as a testing ground for various products in the business world, so why not test housing policies there?

However, it’s crucial to understand that there are no quick fixes. Finland declared its ambitious goal of eradicating homelessness back in 2008 and is now well on its way to achieving it by 2027.

Australians are growing tired of the political games in Canberra and are yearning for real action. Let’s be bold. Let’s step outside our comfort zones. Let’s establish an audacious goal that we can all support and give it our best shot. The only thing we have to lose is the future we want for our grandchildren.