Housing affordability has deteriorated rapidly since the mid 1990s. According to Julian Disney, chair of the National Housing Affordability Summit and panellist at this CMSF’s key ‘To Build A Nation’ plenary, about 750,000 lower-income households in
Disney says the shortage is now so severe that it could not be reduced by public investment anyway, even with greatly increased funding. Ballooning superannuation funds struggling for new areas to diversify are perfectly positioned to fund the development of public and low-rent housing, but it just doesn’t provide enough return. Different governments at different times have talked about using the wealth of superannuation funds to do social good, but trustees have rightly argued that they have a responsibility to their members. As Brad Pragnell, director of policy and best practice at ASFA, says: “Superannuation is not a magic honey pot. It’s there to provide for peoples’ retirement.” Howard Rosario, chief executive at Westscheme, says the fund has been in several discussions with public housing initiatives over the years, but the commercial case is yet to add up. “It’s a great idea, but who makes up the shortfall? We are obliged to get the best returns for our members; we can’t expect them to absorb social costs,” he says.
For more than 20 years the US Government has provided substantial tax concessions to investors in low-rent housing for low-income tenants. Disney says that this has been successful in attracting large institutional investment and greatly increasing the supply of affordable housing in the