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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Public Housing

9 April 2019

 

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I am a bit 
surprised to see that the Minister for Housing is not in a rush to get up 
and defend his record, but I am very happy to step in. I thank the member 
for Franklin, Ms Standen, for bringing on this matter of public importance 
debate because it is one of the most significant issues confronting 
Tasmania today.

It is particularly galling to sit in question time and listen to the 
Treasurer crow about his budget management and again allude to these 
golden times when we know there are people sleeping in tents and cars, or 
on couches of friends' and family's places because Tasmania is 
experiencing a housing and homelessness crisis. Not only is there not 
enough supply of affordable, energy-efficient and secure housing, but 
tenants in both the public and the private rental market are being let 
down by deficiencies in the Residential Tenancy Act that failed to protect 
them.

They are particularly vulnerable in times of housing crisis when rents are 
soaring and pressure for private and public rentals is so high that 
tenants in the private rental system are potentially being squeezed by 
landlords, threatened with eviction and facing soaring rents. I have 
spoken to constituents who have seen their rents go up by $100 and $150 
per week with no warning at all.

We need to ensure that that Residential Tenancy Act has a set of minimum 
standards in it for a start. It needs to be placed on the record in this 
place that in 2013 under a Labor-Greens government, we passed amendments 
to the Residential Tenancy Act that put in place some basic minimum 
standards and protections for tenants. There was a delay embedded in the 
legislation and they were due to come into effect in October 2014, but one 
of the first things the Liberals did in government was to roll over to the 
property class, to the Real Estate Institute, and abandon the minimum 
standards. 

We do not have a set of minimum standards in the Residential Tenancy Act 
and there is no protection for tenants from landlords exploiting them. We 
need to have a capacity to make sure that rent increases, like they are in 
the ACT, are capped to some extent. In the ACT they are capped at CPI. 
We have gouging of some of our most disadvantaged people by landlords who 
are exploiting the housing crisis. We have a government that for more 
than four years starved the Housing budget of funding. The Greens came in 
raised it over and over again under the previous minister. Every time you 
looked at those budget papers, there was no extra money in there for 
affordable housing. This is at a time when the federal Coalition 
government had walked away from the National Rental Affordability Scheme 
and had bled dry money that should have been going into housing and 
homelessness action.

When you look at the federal budget papers from last Tuesday night you see 
that culture of disdain for renters, for people who are in housing stress, 
because across the forward Estimates, in the federal budget there is a $
1 billion cut in real terms to housing: $200 million is coming out of the 
National Affordable Housing Agreement, a cut in real terms, and the 
national partnership agreement on affordable housing sees an $800 million 
cut in real terms over the forward Estimates.

When Mr Jaensch gets up shortly and talks about a record state spend, 
which so far has delivered far too few homes, in part, they are squeezed 
into this because their federal colleagues could not care less about 
increasing the supply of affordable housing. It is structurally imbedded 
in our economy that we shaft the poor, that we favour the property class, 
through negative gearing and capital gains. What does that say to our 
young people who are already dealing with climate stress? It says the 
government in Canberra does not care about them. It favours the wealthy 
over them and their future.

It was laced through the entire federal Budget. Young people today can 
only dream of owning their own home; it is becoming increasingly 
impossible for them to find one to rent. That is the situation we are in. 
The Treasurer and the Premier should find some humility instead of coming 
in here and talking about the money, talking about the economy, talking 
about the roads, lying about the golden age. We are sick of it.

We come into direct contact with people who are so stressed - single 
people, young people, older women facing rent increases that soak up some 
three quarters of their income. Often that is a Commonwealth support 
payment. We know from the national Rental Affordability Index that came 
out late last year that Hobart is the least affordable capital city in the 
country. While we are not seeing people sleeping on the lawns of 
parliament, it does not mean they are not homeless. The showground is no 
longer available to people who need temporary emergency accommodation. We 
have not heard anything yet from this minister about what he and his 
department will do to provide that emergency response, let alone 
increasing supply.

I will end on a more affirming note. I believe that Mr Jaensch wants to 
get this right. I believe Mr Jaensch is more capable of driving an 
increase in the supply of affordable housing than his predecessor was. In 
part, that is because there has been four years of underfunding and the 
Government knows Mr Jaensch needs to be given a break because it is as a 
direct result of the policies of state and federal Liberal Governments 
that we are facing a housing and homelessness crisis in Tasmania.