Timber Construction Essential for $2B Social Housing Fund

Without plantation investment Australia could be 250,000 timber-frame houses short of demand

Tue 20 Jun 23


The federal government’s $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator Fund announced over the weekend can also be a winner for sovereign capability and climate if the use of Australian timber is prioritised in the construction of these new homes, says the acting CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association and Climate Policy Manager Natasa Silkman.

“Through this fund, the government can address the social housing supply crisis, make progress against its climate goals, align to their own ‘Buy Australian Plan’ and support Australia’s sovereign capability in production, manufacture and construction sectors simply by using Australian timber,” Ms Silkman said. 

“Australia’s forest products sector welcomes this fund at a time when leading indicators for the housing construction industry are showing significant declines.”

What is the Social Housing Accelerator Fund?

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the $2 billion Social Housing Fund Accelerator in a speech to the Victorian Labor conference on Saturday.

Footage courtesy of @7News

The investment will see funding allocated to states and territories on a per capita basis. It’s projected to facilitate the construction of thousands of new social housing dwellings across the country.

The ABC reports that Mr Albanese held a phone hook-up with premiers and chief ministers on Friday to discuss arrangements for the new funding.

As part of the deal, the funding must be committed to projects within two years.

It can go towards new builds or renovating and refurbishing existing but uninhabitable housing stock.

Mr Albanese said the package would help address a shortage of social housing sooner.

“This is new money – right now – for new social housing,” he says.

“The last decade has seen the proportion of social housing decline from 4.7 per cent to 4.2 per cent of households. Demand for social housing has increased almost three times as fast as the growth in population.

Under the model, NSW will receive the lion’s share of $610 million, Victoria will get $496m, Queensland $398m and Western Australia $209m.

South Australians will see $135m of the money, while Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT will take minimum slices of $50m each.

The funds will be allocated over the next fortnight.

Forest plantation investment is essential to meet future demand for housing

Earlier this month, Wood Central investigated the current shortfall in housing and the importance of plantation investment to meet future demand.

Data provided to Wood Central by the Australian Forest Products Association reports that building one million additional houses using timber could deliver a 14 million tonne CO2 mitigation towards the government’s legislated target of reducing emissions by 43% by 2030 – the equivalent of taking six million cars off the road for a year.

Building construction, operation and maintenance account for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.

According to Australian Forest Products Association acting CEO Natasa Silkman choosing timber in new home builds means starting with a healthy CO2 credit.

“Choosing timber in new home builds means starting with a healthy CO2 credit, as opposed to potential deficits in new dwellings built with other materials,” Ms Silkman said.

“Of course, to build new homes with timber, we must grow supply by planting more timber production trees. We need one billion new production trees planted, otherwise, Australia will be 250,000 timber house-frames short of demand by 2035. That’s the equivalent of cities the size of Newcastle and Geelong combined.”

The Australian Forest Products Association is pressuring the government to include timber into housing policies to ensure Australia drives down emissions in the construction sector.

“This will also achieve multiple positive outcomes by helping to address housing shortages, mitigating climate change and helping the many communities, regional and metropolitan, that grow and process the timber and wood fibre we use every day in our lives,” Ms Silkman said.


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