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Housing Land Supply Amendment Bill 2021

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 28 October 2021

Tags: Housing, Legislation

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I want to add some comments that have been made in a similar vein to other members about the process around this Housing Land Supply Amendment Bill.

This Government has been in office for seven years. There have been endless conversations about taking strategic action on trying to reverse some of the extreme situations Tasmania finds itself in with the property undersupply. There has been a recognised and documented appalling lack of buildings created for people to live in under the Liberals in government and this minister has not covered himself with glory in this area at all.

There is a lot of big talk. Meanwhile, we have a really intolerable situation in Tasmania, for people who either rent or own houses. No-one is in a happy situation unless you are one of the very privileged and small group of people who have a large superannuation nest egg and a substantial asset base and you are speculating on multiple houses. Some people do that. I sometimes think that they are the group that this Government listens to the most, compared to the other vast majority of Tasmanians who live in constant housing insecurity and a real fear of housing prices going up even more and being completely priced out of the opportunity to purchase a home for the first time or to shift between properties when they need to for family or work reasons or because they live in a rental property where prices are going up execrably. Month on month we see rises in the rental property prices in Tasmania.

We are in a dire place in Tasmania. It is not different from where other states find themselves, not that that is any consolation. It is different from our history. That is why it is so harsh and so cruel in Tasmania. We, of all states in Australia have had not only the continual and enormous increases in rental property prices and in house sale prices, but we have had the biggest jump from the lowest base in Australia for both the price of rents and the price of properties in Tasmania.

Core Logic's quarterly rental review report that was released yesterday showed that there has been a 12.8 per cent increase in the median rent price in Hobart. That is enormous. It puts us in a position relative to where we were 10 years ago, substantially increasing the median rental price. The change over the last 10 years has been a 53 per cent increase in rental rates in Hobart for houses and a 50 per cent increase in rental rates for units. These are off-the-chart increases, unprecedented in Tasmania, unprecedented probably in Australia. These are not only affecting people in rental properties. Quarterly figures for the rise in house prices for suburbs in Hobart such as Montrose have gone up 11.4 per cent in the last three months, Chigwell 11.3 per cent and Rosetta has gone up 13.8 per cent.

These are eye-watering figures. For everyone who is scratching out a living with wages that have not substantially risen at all for it seems like decades, this is such a concerning situation. It is the main concern for so many people in Tasmania.

We have had a government who for years now has been talking big about their plan to provide more housing for people in need and more housing for people, especially in social and affordable housing. That has been the argument at the core of the Housing Land Supply Bill that came to parliament in 2018. The argument for that fast-tracking legislation was that it would open up tracts of land around the highest population density and fastest growing parts of the state and enable this bountiful construction boom to happen around Tasmania, providing this wonderful large increase in the number of houses.

As other members have already noted, it has led to nothing substantial. I find that harsh for people who have been waiting for years to enter the housing market, or people who are desperate to be able to relocate to a place that suits their changing family needs because they are caring for children and they need to change their schools, moving from regional areas closer to Hobart, Launceston, Devonport or Burnie, or changing employment or caring a member of the family or a friend, or ageing. All of these are circumstances that require us to shift out of houses or to buy another one or to rent another. But what we find is that people are stuck, congealed into their current circumstances as poorly fitting as they are because there are no other options. It is critical we do everything we can to provide housing, no doubt about that.

This amendment bill and the original act in 2018 come on the back of a history terrible planning reform under the Liberals. The joke, the nonsense, the façade, the sham of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme which has never manifested itself. It does not exist. Even were it to exist in the form the Liberals have created is a bastardised version of what good planning process ought to be, of what community engagement with their character, the liveability, the substance, the amenity of their local area, it provides almost no meaningful opportunities for communities and their local representatives on local council to have that conversation. It locks.

Once everyone was on board - Labor, Liberals and Greens - with consistency in planning in Tasmania, no one disagrees with that but what the Liberals have gestated, still to give birth, to, is a really mangled version of what that could have been. What it has left out in the mangle has been the voice of the community, the opportunity for challenging through appeals and fundamentally the opportunity for really strategic, thoughtful, locally relevant, biodiversity-generating, environmentally sustainable, community liveability plans for local areas in Tasmania. Difference, character - these are things we really relish in Tasmania. We love that. We want consistency in the big rules. Of course, we want councils to have the same general processes so people, developers can move between areas and have the same rules but we do not want to be bound by living in ticky-tacky suburbs in grey, cardboard, monochrome suburbs which is what is rolling out under the Liberals with their planning scheme.

Into this space, it is not surprising when we have the Housing Land Supply Amendment Bill we get quite a lot of concern, outrage, frustration in the submissions I am reading to this amendment bill. That is because there is a lack of trust with the Liberals providing planning processing that do provide for really good strategic thinking, that provide the community a meaningful opportunity and do reduce the paperwork which makes it so impossible for communities to grapple with complex planning legislation. That was one of the criticisms with what is being proposed here. We will have a Housing Land Supply order that would come to parliament for a parcel of land and then that will also have to go to council with development applications and there will be a number of stages, at least three stages.

I know the minister might think this is small stuff but in order for people to be able to keep up with complex planning law when we have the re zoning through a Housing Land Supply Order that comes to parliament, to which to minister comments in the second reading speech or responds in committee, makes agreements about what will be carried through with in the master plan.

This happened with the Huntingfield land supply order. Agreements were made in parliament by the minister, statements were made about what would or would not be in the master plan in response to the serious concerns people in that community had about infrastructure, density, environmental impacts, impacts on other businesses, the local schools, public transport, movement of people, access to employment, the minister made statements about all of these things.

Then, the master plan process, which was undertaken by the Department of Housing, should have included an automatic transfer of the concerns people had raised in the submissions to the Housing Land Supply Order. However, it was started as a new process and the submissions, as I understand it, we asked for as part of a I think the term is - pinpoint submission process. That is the term I heard, I do not know that myself. People could make their own submissions, one on one.

Then, there was a council process. In Huntingfield, there have been the Kingborough Council processes, multiple processes with the development application. There have probably been four, five times the community has had to keep eyes on things and make responses. On behalf of the community, I plead with the minister to give some real attention with his department as to how that process can be as simplified and clarified for people, including down to the maps released. The map made available in the Huntingfield supply order was very hard for people to interpret. What goes to council? Different maps. Obviously, when there is a change to a development application that has to happen. It is the ability for the community to understand what is happening.

Maybe a good gesture to the community, on the back of this, would be for the minister to invite consultation, a one on one, face to face meeting - dare I say it actually talk to people in the community, to some of the bodies like Planning Matters Alliance Tasmania, which represents 70 groups and find out how the consultation process could be improved, how the materials provided by the department on complex planning legislation could be simplified.

In everything this Government does in Tasmania, we have a commitment to 26TEN to provide everything in a very simple form of language. There is no doubt that planning legislation is extremely complex. It needs to be simplified, it is as simple as that. The planning language needs to be simplified, so people who have a reasonable concern they want to express can get started because a lot of people just throw up their hands. This means you end up with a biased sample of people who are making comments. To be fair, there is a range of people who would like to have a say in an easier format.

That was a bit of a digression. What I wanted to get on with in my comments was to speak about some of the comments made by the Local Government Association of Tasmania. They made some good points about the need for long term planning, that the zoning and development regulations are really only the first step in the development pathway of a habitable house, they have said. At the moment the Government has this housing land supply focus but it is a stop gap measure at the end of the problem. In order to get people into houses, in order to step up the supply of homes in Tasmania, there are many other critical steps and barriers which, in the Local Government Association of Tasmania's mind, are not being undertaken by this Government. They need to be prioritised.

Those extra steps to securing housing for Tasmanians include: accessing financing; coordinating construction industry capacity and delivery in a timely fashion; developing workforce challenges approvals; having an infrastructure network capacity and delivery that is timely.

The land banking of buy-development businesses is also a barrier. It is a huge barrier in regional areas but in Hobart, I am aware of it in the electorate of Franklin. The land banking occurring around Tasmania for speculation, for the commercial advantage of individual businesses or landowners has to have a time limit on it. We cannot have land being held without buildings put on it for more than a period of time. We need a formal conversation with Tasmanians to end land banking.

We cannot do that when we have the population increase the minister is talking about, which seems to be a narrative he is building as a justification for no action on climate-change sectoral targets in Tasmania. If we are having the population increase he is predicting, we need to release as much land as possible and we need to put pressure on people to either build on their spare blocks of land or make them available to sell so other people can build on them. It is as simple as that.

We cannot keep sprawling out across the parts of Tasmania we must retain for natural values and agricultural uses. We have to densify and that means we have to look at every parcel of land, not just government owned land, and everyone has to do some heavy lifting in this area.

The LGAT also talk about the lack of diversity in housing products to cater for the varying needs of Tasmanians who have different levels of wealth. They made the point that unless we deal with these things in a strategic and systematic fashion, we will not be able to deal with the spiralling housing crisis we find ourselves in.

The Planning Matters Association (TBC) had made a number of points in its submission. The first is a very good point - the fact that there are no provisions in this Housing Land Supply Amendment Bill for a particular proportion of land to be devoted to social and affordable housing. That is a fundamental problem the Greens have raised. We raised it in 2018 and with the Huntingfield supply order.

We cannot have fast tracking of land for housing supply, ostensibly, to make these houses available for some of the most disadvantaged in Tasmania without having a mandated percentage of that land made available for social and affordable housing. We have so many people in housing distress and insecurity that we have to stop the nonsense that we will just let all ships rise in an open market, because it is not possible.

There are also no provisions within the Tasmanian Planning Scheme that encourage the provision of social and affordable housing. That is something else that has to be fixed.

A review of the state planning provisions is going to be conducted in March 2022 and the minister should consider including provisions within the SPPs to encourage social and affordable housing, instead of simply resorting to a Housing Lands Supply Act. Part of that pressure could be ameliorated by having a provision for a level of social and affordable housing in the planning scheme.

The (TBC) Planning Matters Association also says that Housing Land Supply Orders should be consistent with the Residential Development Strategy from 2013. This was a strategy developed by the State Architect, in consultation with the Minister for Human Services, Housing Tasmania, the Planning Commission, the Property Council, Housing Industry Association, the MBA and others. It was developed to ensure that the Government subsidise social and affordable housing developments, and that those developments do not repeat the mistakes of the past, where disadvantage has been entrenched by high density suburban fringe developments.

It is also the case that in 2020 the Department of Communities Tasmania released a design policy for social housing. I would like to ask the minister whether the design policy for social housing is what governs the sorts of housing designed in the master plan and outlined by the Department of Housing for developments such as the Huntingfield development. There seems to be a lot of things in there which go to the location of housing, the efficient use of land and water, the design, the liveability, the amenity, energy efficiency. Do all of these things have to be adhered to in the Huntingfield and other developments being designed and constructed under the Housing Land Supply Order?

We do not know where and how much land, and how many parcels of land, could be subject to land supply orders in the future. I do not know if the minister has any information he can share with us about this. This amendment bill removes the effective exclusion of some parcels of land in Tasmania from being able to be included in a housing supply order in future. Can the minister talk about whether there is a kind of list with a hectarage or a number of allotments waiting to be deployed for the building of houses through a Housing Land Supply Order?

We do not have any amendments proposed for this bill but we have quite a few questions that I would like to speak to in the committee stage of the bill. I do not intend to drag this out but there are some important questions that have to be asked on this really important bill, so I think -

Mr Jaensch - I am happy to take them now.

Dr WOODRUFF - I only have two minutes left and there are quite a few. The question about the increase in public consultation this bill provides, yes, this is good this increases the public consultations from 14 days to 28 days. It is not something to get excited about. It is just taking us up to the same standard already required by the Tasmanian Planning Commission. We would be much more excited on behalf of the community if there were something more substantial here about the meaningful engagement with communities. We recognise on their behalf the way they are often dealt with, picking people off one on one without group conversations can be very difficult for people who do not understand planning legislations. You have heard me say that before and I will say it again until maybe the department changes its practice.

I have a question which I can ask you now, minister. It is about the Homes Act, clause 5, subsection (a). The bill expands the eligible land under the principal act to include land acquired under the Homes Act after the introduction of the principal act. I want to confirm that the Homes Act land can only be used for public housing. In other words, the Housing Land Supply Act can rezone Homes Act land, but is it the case that Homes Act land, the Housing Land Supply Act provides no prescription for the percentage of land to be set aside for social and affordable housing. Is it the case that Homes Act land even after rezoning will still be Homes Act land which only allows for that to be used for social housing? Do you understand? I am happy to go into Committee to discuss that. I think my time is up. I will follow these up in Committee.