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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Housing Affordability

27 November 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, that was an unedifying performance from the Minister for Housing. You had seven minutes to contribute and you spent more time talking about the Labor Party than you did about people who do not have a roof over their head. Where are your values? It is more about the politics than it is about the people. You are minister of the Crown, for heaven's sake. Disgraceful effort. We had to endure 20 minutes of the same crap from you people this morning.

Members interjecting.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, I ask that we allow the member to make a contribution in silence, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Unlike the minister, I have the grace to thank Ms Standen for bringing on this important issue of housing affordability and availability in Tasmania. There is no question that we are in the middle of a housing crisis and homelessness rates are increasing. There is no question that we need to do something as a parliament about the undersupply, about soaring rents and about the proliferation of short-stay accommodation in Tasmania. The minister would have done better by the people he was elected to serve and for whom he has been given portfolio responsibility by displaying a little bit more empathy for people who are experiencing housing stress or homelessness.

We have the Rental Affordability Index out today as Ms Standen has made clear and it states that greater Hobart continues to be the least affordable capital city in Australia. Rental affordability in Hobart has dropped considerably over recent quarters and it is now the only capital city in Australia where rental affordability for the average income household has dropped below the critical threshold of 100 to a RAI score of 93 in June 2019. This means that even average income households are now paying 30 per cent of their income or more on rent. Although household incomes in Tasmania are significantly lower than the national average, rents are only marginally lower than mainland averages. The gap between income and rent has been widening over the past three years.

We are in the middle of a housing crisis. It is in part due to a newly elected Hodgman Liberal Government for the first three state budgets - and you cannot deny this, Mr Jaensch; it is true. The first three state budgets your Government handed down did not allocate new money for increasing housing supply so we were three years lagging behind on increasing supply at the same time your federal colleagues smashed up the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which was a critical lever for increasing the supply of affordable, modern, energy-efficient housing.

We had three years of lag in the state budget where no new money was going into supply, where rents were soaring, where short-stay accommodation listings were going through the roof, and they still are and you have refused to regulate, as other sensible jurisdictions have done, to ensure you prioritising homes for people rather than beds for visitors.

It has been an honour and a privilege, albeit a confronting one at that, to participate in the inquiry into housing affordability in Tasmania. I thought I knew a lot about this portfolio as a former minister but I learnt a lot and I am very thankful to the people and stakeholder organisations who presented to that inquiry.

They told a compelling story of a drastic undersupply of affordable homes, a compelling story of people who are driven to homelessness, people from middle-income working families who cannot find a home, of real estate agencies that bang up the rent once every 12 months, of a Government that has failed to get the policy settings right because it underinvested in social and affordable housing for the majority of its first term and is now playing catch-up.

You can bag us out all you like. I am deaf to the sort of garbage that comes out of your mouth. The fact is, we built 2200 new affordable homes in the four years of the Labor-Greens government and we delivered 9500 free, energy-efficiency upgrades for low-income households, small businesses and community groups. We delivered Better Housing Futures, which is empowering tenants and rejuvenating places like Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Clarendon Vale.

The minister, whose track record in this portfolio has yet to be proven, is yippering away over there, standing in here and offering a litany of self-congratulations, which is repulsive to listen to. I do not know if your mum did what good mums do and say, 'Don't talk about yourself, don't puff yourself up, just go out there and work hard and let your deeds speak for themselves'. It does not sound like any of you people had that lesson from your mothers because we have to put up with nauseating self- congratulations in this place every single day.

It is very clear, what we need here in order to address the housing supply problem. There does need to be a federal change to negative gearing and capital gains tax. We do need to make sure that every single bit of money that has come from housing debt relief from the Commonwealth-State Housing debt goes into increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. We need to regulate rents and Airbnb.