The federal government has received the lowest marks in a report highlighting housing policy shortcomings of most state and territory governments during the pandemic.
The Australian National University health equity report card ranks the governments on policy performance for major stimulus initiatives such as housing, employment and income support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It gave the federal government a ‘fail’ mark for its housing response during the pandemic, citing its HomeBuilder policy as only targeting people already financially equipped to buy, build or renovate.
“[It] failed to take measures to stem the number of investors in the housing market pushing up prices to the detriment of homeowners, especially first-time homeowners,” the report says.
The Queensland government scored a C grade overall on housing, while the Victorian, NSW and South Australian governments scored C+, and the ACT, Tasmania and Western Australia scored B. The Northern Territory did not require related housing measures.
The report highlights funding for social and public housing infrastructure as worthy of top marks, and payments to cover housing costs and tenancy protections as scoring highly.
The report’s lead author, Professor Sharon Friel, said affordable and good quality public housing should be a priority.
“The employment, income support and housing policy responses across Australia not only failed to reduce the observed health inequities produced by the COVID-19 pandemic, they will entrench long-standing policy conditions,” Friel said.
The federal government also received a C for its income support and employment policy responses — which includes programs JobKeeper and JobSeeker — while the state and territory governments received marks varying between Cs and Bs.
“Though many of these measures have aided in job retention and job creation, they have kept the status quo and left glaringly unaddressed structural inequities in the labour market,” the report says.
Friel said the policies were promising and “very welcome” as they increased funding for populations experiencing disadvantage, but almost all of the measures had ended.
“More needs to be done across the board,” she said. “It’s such a missed opportunity to do something about health inequities.”