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Housing bill back in spotlight when parliament returns

Rising rents and low vacancies mean essential workers can't afford to live in their own communities.

Rising rents and low vacancies mean essential workers can't afford to live in their own communities. Photo: AAP

Social housing will be back in the spotlight when federal parliament returns, as Anthony Albanese prepares to reintroduce a signature Labor bill.

The $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund stalled in the Senate before the winter break after the coalition and Greens refused to play ball, pushing debate off until at least October.

Labor will bring the legislation back before the lower house next week to get the ball rolling again.

Mr Albanese said his government would use every available tool to progress its social and affordable housing fund.

“Reintroducing this bill gives the coalition and the Greens an opportunity to stop playing politics and support a $10 billion housing fund that the Australian people clearly need and support,” the prime minister said.

“We’re not giving up on Australians who need and deserve the security of a roof over their head.”

But Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather said the government was still refusing to change its position on the issue.

“We’re willing to negotiate but a negotiation takes two to tango and the government saying it’s their way or the highway,” he told Sky News.

“When their way is hundreds of thousands more people waiting for public and affordable housing and millions of renters facing financial stress, that’s not a negotiation.”

The Greens have argued not enough was being done for renters, and have called for unlimited rent increases to be made illegal, along with calls for a rent freeze.

Mr Chandler-Mather said some of the government’s more than $20 billion surplus could be set aside for housing.

“We’re not asking for the world. We’re asking for a small amount of the budget surplus, $2.5 billion, to go towards public and affordable housing,” he said.

“We would be abdicating our responsibility as the Greens in the Senate to just pass this long-term plan through that which we know will lock in failure.”

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles downplayed suggestions the bill could be used as a double dissolution trigger, giving the government room to call an early election, if the Greens and the coalition reject it for a second time.

“This isn’t about elections, this is about getting more housing,” Mr Marles told ABC Radio on Friday.

“This is about making sure that we get a much greater supply through the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund.”

A double dissolution can be called if a piece of legislation is defeated twice in the Senate and would see all seats in the upper house up for election instead of half, as normal.

Acting Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said Labor’s move on the housing fund bill showed arrogance.

“The policy does not stack up and meanwhile their economy-wrecking approach is making it more and more expensive to build a home,” she told Seven’s Sunrise program.

“What we need now is an urgent plan to tackle inflation, not threats about an early election.”

Housing Minister Julie Collins urged the Senate to back the bill.

“One thing I’ve heard loud and clear is that we cannot afford any delays,” she said.

“Every day of delay is $1.3 million less that can be spent on housing Australians in need.”

But Ms Ley said the fund would not fix the issue.

“This is woefully inadequate to address the crisis, it’s a policy that doesn’t stack up,” she said.

“It’s just a fund which … would become a new house, perhaps.”

Earlier this week, the construction union launched a major campaign for a super profits tax on Australia’s richest companies to pay for social housing, which the prime minister quickly ruled out.

– AAP

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