• More can be done to help secure housing for vulnerable Australians
  • Co-operative housing can be “fourth pillar” to help solve national crisis
  • Sector will work with governments to secure funding for more projects

Australia’s $40 billion co-operatives and mutuals sector has welcomed the Federal Government’s Budget initiatives to help ease cost of living pressures and address the shortage of affordable housing.

The chief executive of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, Ms Melina Morrison, said the $6.2 billion of new investment in affordable housing would provide some relief but more could be done to ensure Australians had access to secure accommodation.

“The economic and social impacts of this housing crisis are manifest and demand innovative solutions if we are to ensure fair access to safe and secure housing for all Australians,” Ms Morrison said. “Across the economy, from housing, to care, to manufacturing, co-ops and mutuals are a model fit for the times, empowering people and small businesses to address challenges alongside government.

Ms Morrison said co-operative housing, which provides affordable and secure tenure through a shared ownership structure, could provide “a fourth pillar” in Australia’s housing system, helping to address the imbalance between supply and demand.

“Co-operative housing has been successfully used to assist thousands of Australians into homes that offer security of tenure and a sense of community without the need for crippling mortgages that become a burden to service”, Ms Morrison said.

“This is a model that can be easily scaled with appropriate funding, and we look forward to working with the Federal and state governments to explore how the sector can utilise the up to $1.9 billion in additional concessional loans to community housing providers to expand co-operative housing under the HAFF and the National Housing Accord.

Co-operative housing has been a mainstream part of the housing system in many parts of Europe for more than 100 years.

Co-operative housing currently represents less than 1% of the total housing stock in Australia compared to European countries where it is as high as 45% of all housing.

The BCCM recently hosted a European study tour to examine co-operative housing models in Austria, Switzerland and Denmark.

“It’s clear from our tour, that countries like Australia, the US and UK that have underinvested in social housing and affordable not-for-profit rental models are in a catastrophic phase, which will take years to repair,” Ms Morrison said. “Young people and essential workers will largely be the ones to bear the pain”.

The release last month by Federal Housing Minister Julie Collins of the State of Housing System Report highlighted co-operative housing as an emerging form of housing tenure.

Ms Morrison said there was a role for co-operatives to play in helping to stimulate economic growth as part of the Government’s Future Made in Australia proposals.

“Co-operatives are important structures for bringing small market entrants together like small and medium enterprises and farmers, so that they compete with larger entities for export and value added manufacturing opportunities.

“Some of Australia’s largest exporters in agriculture are co-operatives, showing we can be globally competitive, whilst ensuring that profits and value remain in the domestic agriculture sector as well as ensuring we have supply chains and domestic production shored up against future crisis.

“We can help build a future made in Australia, by ensuring that farmers and manufacturers and small businesses are informed about co-operative business models.

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