Emotional plea to pass social, affordable housing fund

·3-min read

An emotional plea has been issued to strip the politics out of efforts to establish a national housing fund to kickstart the building of new social and affordable homes.

Crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie was on the verge of tears as she implored the Greens to use their balance of power to vote through the government's $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund.

The Tasmanian senator and her colleague secured a guarantee of 1200 homes for every state and territory but the Greens continue to hold out for more immediate investment and a national rent freeze.

"We are falling behind because for every one we build, we've got nearly bloody 50 more on that waiting list," she told the chamber on Thursday.

"Let's get the program started so we can get moving, so we don't have as many (homeless) people out there, especially our children, that next generation.

"I don't want to see them starting their lives while living in a tent. We cannot hold this up another day."

Senator Lambie said she knew it would take time to get the materials and labour to build the homes and while it wasn't perfect, "people out there need a roof over their heads".

Drawing on her own experience, she said her mother would have been "absolutely paralysed" if the family was forced to live in a tent instead of having that safety net of social housing they moved into instead.

"Do you really want to keep playing with people's lives?" she posited towards the Greens in the chamber.

The government and the Greens remain in a stand-off, with repeated moves by Labor to force the fund to a vote in the Senate failing.

The opposition and Greens also voted to push the bill off the agenda on Thursday.

The interest from the $10 billion fund, up to $500 million a year, will go towards 30,000 new social and affordable houses over five years.

Housing Minister Julie Collins has chastised the Greens and opposition for withholding support for a fund that would help homeless people and those fleeing domestic violence.

"(The coalition) and the Greens are performing this coalition of no homes, you don't want any homes on the ground when it comes to social and affordable housing," she told parliament.

"You need to get your senators to support this bill and allow us to have a vote, if you're serious about what's going on when it comes to housing."

But the Greens have hit back, saying the fund doesn't guarantee any money towards social housing if it makes a loss in a given year and the legislation does nothing for renters.

Housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather said their criticisms of the bill remain despite Senator Lambie's plea.

"Even if Labor reached their target, and it is extremely unlikely that they would, we would see the shortage of social and affordable housing get worse," he said.

"The government has a chance right now to work with the Senate to deliver a plan that actually starts to tackle the scale of the crisis."

Independent senator David Pocock is pushing for amendments to the bill to include an ability to periodically increase the $500 million annual cap on disbursements from the fund, and indexation at 2.5 per cent each year.

But he has said he would not block the fund from passing.