What would be the price tag for such a program? And what’s the best way for government to provide the necessary support?
To answer the first question, we identified both the social housing need, described above, and the land and construction costs across 88 regions of Australia.
Different regions have different land costs and building forms, such as detached, medium and high-rise dwellings. Not surprisingly, the modelled unit procurement costs vary substantially, from A$146,000 in remote South Australia to A$614,000 in parts of Sydney. We then calculated the price tag across the country.
To work out the cost to government, and answer the second question, a couple of important assumptions are made.
The first is that social housing need should be met in (or near) the places where it arises.
While skewing the building program towards less well-located places could accommodate the need more cheaply, it is in our view essential to avoid such a “ghettoisation” model.
Second, while tenants can help cover the costs through their rent, to be affordable that rent will service only a modest amount of debt. As the federal treasurer’s own advisory committee acknowledges, therefore, the public purse must bear most of the development cost.
No amount of “innovative” procurement or financing will yield a government “free lunch” as the UK’s National Audit Office evaluation of private infrastructure financing experiments demonstrates.