The South Australian Government is working collaboratively with Community Housing Providers (CHPs) on how to maximise the impacts of a $135 million funding injection at a time when we need more affordable housing fast because the cost of further inaction is too high.
South Australia’s affordable housing shortage is costing the state $38 million per annum in public and private sector costs. This cost will reach almost $70 million a year by 2041.
The substantial price tag is the economic and social cost associated with homelessness, domestic violence, stress and depression, reduced disposable income, and wellbeing, according to an Australian study.
Current under-investment in social and affordable housing is part of the historic context failing to close the housing need gap currently widened by record-rising rental, mortgage and living costs and a wave of new migrants adding to already high demand.
Part of the multi-billion-dollar Federal Government response is the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF). The HAFF is the biggest national spend in affordable housing in a long time and it’s currently stalled in the Senate.
South Australian Community Housing Providers (CHPs) are shovel-ready with affordable housing developments earmarked for HAFF funding now waiting for a green light. There is the potential for 2000 homes to be built in SA under the fund.
There are currently more than 39,000 households in South Australia without appropriate housing.  This number will jump to 50,700 by the time a child born today turns 18.
The majority of these households are one and two-parent families who are either experiencing homelessness, are living in overcrowded homes, or are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
With funding relief from the $10 billion HAFF delayed, the role then of the state government in finding a quick, stop-gap measure is becoming increasingly important.
Earlier this month, CHIA SA and a dozen CHPs joined with Human Services Minister Nat Cook, and representatives from the SA Housing Authority, Renewal SA and the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC).
The high-level meeting was organised by the state government to understand how CHPs can deliver affordable housing under the recently announced Commonwealth Social Housing Accelerator fund.
South Australia has received $135 million from the fund, which must be invested in social and community housing by the South Australian Government in the next two years.
Recent Australian research shows that social and affordable housing can be delivered and managed more efficiently by the community housing sector under a partnership model with government.
Modelling conducted in Western Australia – a state whose community housing sector is similar in size to our own – shows that the government cost of delivering one affordable rental home to its social housing portfolio is $625,000, compared to $479,000 for a CHP and government partnership.
The 27 CHPs operating in South Australia can leverage government investment to drive the supply of new social and affordable housing, delivering better value for money.
CHPs can improve the value of every state government dollar invested with them to build and manage affordable housing.
The cost effectiveness of CHPs is largely due to the sector’s not-for-profit status, making CHPs exempt from income tax, GST, land tax and stamp duty. Add to this, the further cost-saving available to CHPs, which include leveraging government funding with funding from other sources, such as the NHFIC and accessing additional Commonwealth funding through tenants being eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
In SA, CHPs are the not-for-profit organisations that currently provide an affordable rental home to more than 25,000 people through managing and/or owning 13,773 properties. This represents almost 30 per cent of social and affordable housing stock in SA.
For more than three decades, CHPs in South Australia have been delivering diverse and accessible tenant-centred housing options that lead to better life outcomes for those who are in greatest need.
Traditional need has been for those struggling on the margins – those with very low, often fixed, incomes, those living with disability and mental illness, or those fleeing domestic violence. Recent economic pressures have seen the need grow to include South Australians living on low to middle income who are combating rising housing stress but who are not a priority for social housing – they’re known as the ‘missing middle’. The missing middle includes frontline workers on traditionally low wages across hospitality, retail, aged care and disability care. Many of these lower-skill job sectors employ new migrants – a growing influx of which is now being experienced and they need more affordable homes.
While we applaud the Malinauskas Government’s investment into much-needed additional social housing and the need to maintain and grow it, we also believe CHPs are under-resourced value-for-money partners who can deliver more affordable housing, more cheaply and quickly to those in greatest need and the ‘missing middle’. This can be achieved through mixed affordable housing development that include a proportion of social housing and affordable housing.
Utilising the state’s community housing sector’s full capacity, in partnership with the state government, will provide a solution to affordable housing need now. This CHP and government partnership could also set a pathway to benefit those in housing crisis and housing stress in the future, in turn passing on multi-million dollar economic and social cost benefits to the wider community and the State.
We can work smarter and faster together for better wellbeing and financial outcomes for South Australians from the bottom to the top, without missing anyone in the middle.
We congratulate state government on taking the first steps to making this happen.
Watch this space!
 COST OF INACTION: Social and economic losses due to the social and affordable housing shortage. The urgent case for social and affordable housing investment, Swinburne University of Technology, March 2022.
 Quantifying Australia’s unmet housing need national snapshot 2023, Community Housing Industry Association.
 Community Housing Sector Growth Opportunities: collaboration between Government and industry to drive supply report, Shelter WA, July 2022.