The Guardian • Issue #2065

Hidden costs of HAFF

Homeless person at Christmas time.

Photo: (CC0)

Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) comes with the hidden costs incurred in managing the Fund.

To understand the wastage of money not going to housing, a similar fund, the Medical Research Future Fund which is also managed by the Future Fund Board, had costs of over $400 million last year. It has just over $20 billion in investments – double what is proposed for the HAFF.

That would equate to costs of management, much of it outsourced to the finance sector, of $200 million for the HAFF! These costs would come out of the returns on the $10 billion of investments which the government estimates at $500 million.

Of course, investing in shares, derivatives and other financial products is risky and unpredictable. Some years might make huge returns, other years negative returns. It is a further source of profit to the private managers of outsourced investments.

The chair of the Future Fund Board is the hard-line neo-liberal Peter Costello, noteworthy for slashing public spending as Treasurer in the Howard government.

In other spending on “social and affordable housing” (not the same as public housing), the Albanese government is spending millions on a “framework for tackling housing affordability problems over the longer term.” To this end the Budget contained the following measures:

  • $13.4 million over 4 years to develop a 10-year National Housing and Homelessness Plan in 2023
  • $15.2 million over 4 years and $4.4 million per year ongoing to establish a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council
  • $0.5 million over 4 years and $0.1 million per year ongoing to establish Housing Australia.
  • The budget allocated $324.6 million over four years to establish the Help to Buy shared equity scheme for low to moderate income earners – typical of the focus of governments on home purchases.

The government has also announced a $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator (SHA) intended as a bridging program for states and territories until the HAFF is up and running.

From the government’s perspective the costs of housing under the HAFF do not come off the central budget or contribute to a budget deficit.

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