A decision to waive hundreds of millions of dollars of South Australia's social housing debt six years ago failed to induce any extra spending from the state government to address homelessness.
As independent senator Jacqui Lambie continues to negotiate a similar waiver for the Tasmanian government in exchange for supporting the Coalition's $158 billion income tax cut plan, doubt has been cast on the effectiveness of the last waiver on improving access to social housing.
The waiver - reported as $283.9 million in the Commonwealth's 2012-13 final budget outcome and $320 million in the 2013-14 South Australian budget statement - was granted by former Labor housing minister Mark Butler in 2013.
Analysis from the Parliamentary Library said while the waiver represented a "significant benefit" for the state, South Australia still had a large housing debt to the Commonwealth to the tune of $176 million.
There also did not appear to be any published analysis of the effects of the reduced debt on overall housing investment, their report noted.
But social policy advocates say that's because the money failed to flow through to more social housing.
Dr Greg Ogle, who is a senior policy and research analyst with the South Australian Council of Social Services, said it was difficult to track the money directly, as social housing was built through both Renewal SA and the former Department of Communities and Social Inclusion.
However it seemed the waiver coincided with a fall in social housing expenditure from the department.
"The social housing expenditure in [the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion] went from a budgeted $519 million in 2011-12, to a budgeted $445 million in 2012-13 for estimated result at $428 million, and down again to $411 million in 2013-14 - and continued to fall after that," he said.
"That is, this relief from Commonwealth funds coincided with decreasing [department] investment in social housing programs. Again, Renewal SA could complicate this picture."
However Dr Ogle said a separate budget statement that characterised spending by function, not department, also showed a decline in social housing spending - from $558 million in 2012-13 to $441 million in 2013-14.
"So, I can't be precise about where the money went, but whatever, it does not look like a great housing story," Dr Ogle said.
Shelter SA 's Dr Alice Clark also said any savings generated by the forgiveness of the debt were not spent on public housing.
"We've lost 20,000 public housing places over last 20 years," Dr Clark said.
"No wonder the number people who were homeless over a 12-month period was over 20,000.
"Those two numbers are not a coincidence."
A spokeswoman for South Australian housing minister Michelle Lensink would not comment on the state government's past investment in social housing, noting they were not in power at the time.
Senator Lambie said the waiver was needed as Tasmania was paying 50 cents in every dollar it received from the Commonwealth under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement back to the federal government through repayments and interest on a historic social housing loan.
But Canberra Times analysis indicates the ACT and Northern Territory are in fact paying a higher proportion of their national housing and homelessness funding back in interest and repayments than Tasmania.
The ACT is paying nearly 53 cents in the dollar back to the Commonwealth while the Northern Territory is paying nearly 91 cents in the dollar (although the NT recently signed a $110 million dollar deal with the Commonwealth for remote housing).
State and territory governments have $2 billion worth of social housing debt to the Commonwealth. Tasmania's debt is $148 million.
NSW, which had $805 million of housing debt to the Commonwealth last year was paying 20 cents back to the Commonwealth on every dollar it gained under the housing and homelessness agreement in repayments and interest. Western Australia, with $323 million of housing debt, was paying 21 cents on every dollar it got for housing from the Commonwealth.
All up, the Commonwealth recouped more in interest on its housing loans - $113 million - than through actual repayments - $112 million - in 2018.
The ACT's social housing loans are recorded as $123 million on the Commonwealth's ledgers, but $115 million on ACT budget papers.
This is separate to the $1 billion loan the territory government took on to clean-up the Mr Fluffy crisis.
An ACT government spokeswoman last week said the fixed rate that applied to those loans was "materially higher" than the rates the territory could currently borrow in the market.
There was also no mechanism from the ACT to make an early repayment of the debt to clear it, she said.
But a request from ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr for its loans to be forgiven was this week knocked back.
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