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Housing


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Tags: Housing, Infrastructure

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I acknowledge there is considerable activity happening at the moment in increasing the supply of housing. However, I dispute the minister's statement that the Government is doing all it can. We have an allocation towards infrastructure of around $3.1 billion. That has been much touted since the start of the pandemic. The vast majority of that money is going into the construction of roads, into hard infrastructure - not social infrastructure. I have no doubt at all that property developers and housing developers are having a very busy time at the moment and they are increasing the supply of housing, but the supply of social and affordable housing still manifestly lags.

We know from last year's report from the inquiry into housing affordability, that we are about 11 500 homes short of what is needed in Tasmania - primarily social and affordable housing. It is not true that the Government is doing that it can. What it is doing, which is what Liberal Governments do, is relying heavily on the private sector to pick up and increase the supply which Government has failed to deliver. That is the bottom line.

The Greens advocated passionately for our recovery out of COVID-19 to be a housing led recovery. We wrote to the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council strongly proposing that investment in social and affordable housing be prioritised to get us out of the economic doldrums, provide employment and then have the long-term social fabric improvement through a substantial increase to the supply of social and affordable housing.

It is pleasing that there is plenty of activity out there and that more homes are being built. However, the Greens remain concerned that not enough of those homes will be affordable, or pitched at that end of either the buyers or the rental market where we know the need is greatest - and that is amongst low to middle income Tasmanians and people who are reliant on income support. The focus of our housing build should be increasing the supply of homes for people who, right now, have been shut out of the home buyers' market- young people, single people, older single women. They have also increasingly been unable to find an affordable rental home.

The shocking article this week in the Mercury, showing that Tasmanians are paying the same rent - with only one-dollar difference - as people who live in Melbourne who are on higher incomes, and yet, Tasmania is still the poorest state in the country, if you do not count the Northern Territory. Tasmanians are finding it increasingly impossible to find a rental they can afford or that is close enough to work, to education or training.

I was only having a conversation this morning with a friend of mine who is 64 years old, works really hard, has very little in her super and will be eligible for the pension in a year or two, but that will not pay the rent. The aged pension cannot pay a rental in Hobart or Greater Hobart, and it cannot pay the rent increasingly right across Tasmania. This friend of mine has resigned herself, as she said, and I will quote her, 'I'll be working, darling, until I drop dead'.

That is the situation that has been created in this state where the lag that took place between 2014 and 2017 in funding for new social and affordable housing is now playing out bitterly in the lives of people who cannot find a home. For three years this state Government put no new money into the construction of social and affordable housing - three whole years. Then when it became clear that we were in a housing and homelessness crisis the Government had to act, and that is why they are acting, but it took a crisis. It took tents on the lawns of Parliament House, tents with families of six in them at the showgrounds. It took that obvious evidence of shortage of supply and people put in crisis for this Government to put some state money into increasing the supply of social and affordable housing.

Up until last week there was a tent on the lawns of Parliament House. I think there was a couple of weeks when that tent was there, and so much of it -

Mr Jaensch - Just a tent, though.

Ms O'Connor - Did you say it is 'just a tent'?

Mr Jaensch - As I understand it, there was not someone relying on it for their bed for the night.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, I had not had that confirmed, minister. That is quite interesting.

The concern we have is that Tasmanians are being priced out of their own paradise. Increasingly people are having to move further and further out of the city just to rent a two-bedroom butter box. With that move out to a more affordable rental in some of our towns like Sorell or Brighton, comes increased costs of travelling into work, much of which is in the city, increased congestion on the roads and increased emissions from transport. We can do better here. What was that, Mr Ellis?

Mr Ellis - There are emissions from concrete and bricks.

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Ellis is giving me a lecture on climate. I wonder if Mr Ellis made any sort of advocacy for an increased time for perusal of the Climate Change portfolio? I will bet he did not. In fact, I know he did not.