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Jim Chalmers to sell super funds’ housing plan at treasurers meeting

Emergency summit needed to resolve housing crisis

An Albanese government plan to entice super funds to invest in affordable housing will be the top item for discussion at a federal and state treasurers meeting on Friday.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the $575 million plan was a “high priority” before the Council of Federal Financial Relations meeting.

The virtual meeting is the second since the Albanese government came to power and comes off the back of last week’s jobs and skills summit in Canberra.

“Clearer ways forward are emerging on a number of fronts since the summit, which I will discuss with the states,” Dr Chalmers said before the meeting.

“We believe there’s a way to partner with our major super funds to invest in our national priorities including more affordable housing, which we know is a high priority after a decade of neglect from the previous government.”

Under the federal government’s plan, $575 million would be unlocked from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to encourage super funds and other institutional investors to invest in affordable housing.

The government hopes the move will improve the risk-reward ratio for super funds and address the growing shortfall of affordable housing across the country.

“We want to build on the momentum that came out of the Jobs and Skills Summit, where there was broad agreement for closer partnerships in areas like skills and housing,” Dr Chalmers said.

“The most important thing is to get started.”

Also to be discussed at Friday’s treasurers’ meeting are the fiscal positions of the Commonwealth and states as they emerge from the COVID pandemic lockdowns.

Treasurers are expected to discuss looming budget pressures from sectors such as health, ageing and disability support, as well as women’s economic participation and security.

The federal government also wants to use the meeting to nail down a plan for future reforms in areas including productivity, climate, skills, health and migration and population.

“It’s more important than ever for all levels of government to come together around some of the big economic and budgetary pressures that all of us are facing,” Dr Chalmers said.

“I was really encouraged by the collegiality and common purpose from our first meeting and I want us to continue how we began.”

GDP figures released on Wednesday showed the economy grew almost 1 per cent in the June quarter in line with forecasts.

But the cash rate has risen by 150 basis points since then, with inflation still climbing.

Dr Chalmers said the federal government’s October budget would prioritise cost-of-living relief “in a way that’s responsible and has an economic dividend”.

“I think Australians understand that there’s a lot of debt in the budget, and that we will do what we can for them. But we do that within the constraints of responsible budget management,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“Our economy grew relatively strongly, grew solidly in the June quarter and we’re pleased about that, but we are clear-eyed too about the challenges in our economy.”

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