By Cr Linda Scott, President of the Australian Local Government Association
In a major advocacy win for local government, the Federal Government recently announced a new $500 million Housing Support Program, available to local and state governments, to help address the affordable housing crisis.
Unveiled at National Cabinet last month, this new program will help Australia’s 537 local governments build parks, footpaths, roads, sporting grounds and other local infrastructure which is essential for our communities.
ALGA has been advocating for this support because we know that we can’t simply fix Australia’s worsening housing crisis by just building more homes. We must work collaboratively across all levels of government to invest in the social amenities and local infrastructure necessary for creating strong, healthy and liveable communities.
So we were delighted that the government heard our call and responded with funding that will enable affordable new housing developments in our cities, towns and regions. It was also fantastic to see increased support for built environmental professionals, including local government town planners, included in the planning reforms announced by National Cabinet.
Our research shows there’s a severe shortage of skilled planners in local government, and that we need this increased investment to facilitate streamlined housing approvals and strategic planning to identify new growth areas. Of course, there’s a lot more councils can do to help solve the affordable housing crisis with the right support and regulations in place.
That’s why ALGA is excited to be involved with the Planning Ministers Meetings, working with this influential group – as well as key stakeholders and other peak bodies – to develop and implement sensible reforms. Through these meetings, we are reinforcing the importance of local communities continuing to have a say in development in their local areas.
We firmly believe that you get much better housing outcomes when decisions are made locally. Some areas have unique qualities and topography that need special planning considerations, with development assessments that are best undertaken by local government.
Across the country, we are seeing a movement to remove local government planning powers, but there’s no evidence to show that this will deliver more housing, or housing that is more affordable.
As a signatory to the National Housing Accord, ALGA is fully committed to working collaboratively with state and federal governments on housing and planning reforms that will deliver more affordable housing for all Australians. We’re also continuing to call for Financial Assistance Grants to be restored to at least one per cent of commonwealth taxation revenue to help us invest in building safer, stronger and healthier communities, in a financially sustainable way.
Finally, I want to say a sincere thank you to the mayors, shire presidents, councillors, CEOs, general managers, and local government staff, who travelled to Canberra to attend our 2023 National Local Roads, Transport and Infrastructure Congress earlier this month.
The ideas and innovations shared at this event were vital for local governments who collectively manage around $500 billion worth of infrastructure for our communities. It was also great to hear and engage with Federal Ministers and key decision-makers as well as a range of experts in renewable energy, waste and recycling, active transport, road safety and freight, housing, and telecommunications.
Cr Linda Scott is President of the Australian Local Government Association, the national voice of local government, representing 537 councils across the country.