Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic housing policy responses
Given Australia’s federated system of government, considerable differences quickly emerged between intervention approaches across states and territories. This was also driven by the extent to which different jurisdictions were impacted by the spread of the virus, the extent and frequency of lockdowns, and damage to state/local economies.
The national and state policy measures implemented to support home ownership achieved the desired goal of providing short-term stimulus to the residential building sector and support to the broader economy. However, a range of anticipated and unforeseen consequences have precipitated as a result of concentrated demand-side subsidies, low interest rates and flexible lending conditions.
The establishment of an agile infrastructure to support information sharing will support more effective and innovative housing policy development in the future. The state-to-state infrastructure and approaches that were developed rapidly and which supported jurisdictional responses to COVID-19 provide a template for a shelf-ready, policy-sharing practice that warrants supported development across governments. This could usefully include local government, as well as state and territory and national tiers of governance.
- Social housing sectors nationally were able to provide relative stability, security and safety that protected tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the quality and condition of dwellings and insufficient scale of the sector emerged as key deficiencies.
- Rapid administrative coordination of national, state and territory jurisdictions to develop an information sharing infrastructure proved critical for effective COVID-19 housing and homelessness responses nationally.
- Rapid mobilisation of new and existing partnerships between governments, not-for-profit sectors and private industry reduced homelessness in innovative ways, suggesting a pathway for longer-term investment in innovative interventions.