The federal government has announced it will give $2bn to state and territory governments within weeks for a social housing accelerator fund as part of a last-ditch effort to convince the Greens to not sink Labor’s signature housing policy in the Senate.

“This is new money – right now – for new social housing,” the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said as he announced the funding at Victorian Labor’s state conference on Saturday.

Tackling the housing affordability crisis was a key theme of day one at the conference, with motions to make housing a human right, introduce a mandatory inclusionary zoning scheme and provide affordable housing for young people all passing unanimously.

Another motion to introduce a cap on the number of nights each year an owner can rent out a property as short stay accommodation, and recommending to national conference that it “remove negative gearing tax arrangements” for properties used for such a purpose also passed. The motions are non-binding but play an important role in guiding Labor policy.

Delegates praised the prime minister’s funding announcement but said there was “more to do” to reduce homelessness and Victoria’s record-long public housing waitlist.

During his speech, the prime minister also criticised the Greens for a “stubborn, inflexible refusal to compromise” over the party’s request for guaranteed new spending on housing in exchange for their support for the Housing Australia Future Fund (Haff).

“Demand for social housing has increased almost three times as fast as the growth in population,” Albanese said. “We are determined to work with state and territory governments to reverse this decline as part of our commitment to expand housing supply.”

Albanese later told reporters state and territory governments had committed to using the funds within two years to build or purchase new properties or repair existing stock.

Each state would receive $50m in base funding, with extra allocated on a per capita basis. He said a breakdown of spending by jurisdiction would be released shortly, with the funds out the door within a fortnight.

Albanese said he had discussed the new funding with premiers and chief ministers, with the spending to be implemented alongside changes to planning laws, zoning and unlocking land for new construction.

“What we’ve asked for is that for the work to continue, before the national cabinet meeting that we have scheduled in August, of exactly how over this two years that the state and territory governments have to acquit these $2bn of expenditure,” he said.

“But it will make an enormous difference. We know many, many thousands of homes will be built.”

Albanese said “100%” of fund would go towards public housing and must remain in government hands.

“State and territory governments have agreed we’re not going to have public housing built and then flogged off,” he said.

Australia’s rental and housing crisis: why is it happening and what can we do about it? – video

The Haff, Labor’s centrepiece housing policy at the 2022 election, has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from the Coalition and demands from the Greens for a more ambitious housing agenda.

The Greens have criticised the future fund element of the plan, concerned that fluctuations in investments could see little or no money generated for housing spending in any given year. They initially demanded $5bn guaranteed spending plus a national freeze on rents in exchange for their support.

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After a refusal from Labor, the Greens halved their demands last week, which the government instead countered with a promise of a $500m annual spend – a compromise that still failed to end the stalemate.

Ahead of the Senate’s final sitting week before the winter parliamentary break, Albanese used Saturday’s speech in Melbourne to again pressure the Greens to back the Haff.

He also took a significant swipe at the Greens for not earlier backing the Haff, which fired up the crowd of Labor members and affiliated unions.

“Our government is not going to wait around while members of the Greens political party call for more housing in the media while opposing it in their electorates and voting against it in the parliament,” he said.

“The Greens imagine that their stubborn, inflexible refusal to compromise or negotiate serves their political interest … They are a party of protest. Happy to promise the world, while organising a petition against every new apartment building.”

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, welcomed the funding, which he said would allow the government to speed up its public housing maintenance programs, build new homes and spot purchase exisiting properties.

“All these options are available to us, as we finally got a prime minister that knows where Victoria is and a government that knows what public housing is,” the premier told reporters.

Albanese opened his speech with a fresh appeal for voters to back the Indigenous voice referendum. The referendum has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks after sliding support in some opinion polls, as well as questions from those inside government and pro-voice supporters about the strength of the campaign.

Sources also raised worries that Albanese himself had not more forcefully injected himself into the public push for a yes vote in the referendum.

In his speech, Albanese said he was “optimistic” the vote would succeed, citing the support of all premiers and chief ministers, the trade union movement, religious groups, big business and major sporting codes.

“We can say yes to recognising and celebrating the full 65,000 years of our history. We can say yes to practical change that will help close the gap and improve lives. We can vote yes for a stronger, fairer, more reconciled and more united Australia.”


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