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Housing Matter of Public Importance

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Tags: Housing, Housing Crisis

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, this has been quite an unedifying debate, I have to say. We have had accusations flying from Labor, and the minister pretending that all is well and he is the best housing minister ever. I am not sure how far we have come during this Matter of Public Importance debate, but it is important that the history is correct.

The reason that the Commonwealth-State housing debt was waived is because independent Senator Jacqui Lambie negotiated it in return for her vote which will bring in tax cuts for the wealthy. Let us make sure that the historical record is correct because we have had the minister and then Mr Tucker implying that it was something that the Liberal Government had done to have the Commonwealth-state housing debt waived. It was not. It was Senator Jacqui Lambie holding the line for her vote on tax cuts.

It is important also that we remember also that it was not until there was clear and distressing evidence of a housing crisis that this Liberal Government made sure there was new money going into Housing. We had the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 state budgets that had no new money going into Housing and an Affordable Housing Action Plan that was delivered in 2015 but did not give the minister of the day new money to deliver new stock. The 'bingo budget' was the last one before the last state election in 2018 when we had evidence of people sleeping at the showground, sleeping on the parliament lawns, evidence that short-stay accommodation was completely out of control and shutting everyday Tasmanians out of rental homes.

We still do not have any adequate regulation for short-stay accommodation in Tasmania at all. We had data collection legislation that this House passed about 18 months ago. I encourage the minister to get out more and talk, for example, to the Lord Mayor of Hobart, Anna Reynolds, who will express her frustration and disappointment that there has been inadequate regulation of short-stay accommodation properties -

Members interjecting.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, the member has been silent during every other contribution. I ask that the member makes her contribution in peace, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thought it would be instructive to bring into this debate Shelter Tasmania's budget submission to the budget process which was handed to the Government in August this year. Shelter Tasmania acknowledges the enormous stress that is still in the community because there is a chronic shortfall of affordable housing. The submission makes the point that health, wellbeing and housing are inextricably linked. It urges Government strongly to make sure that investing in housing is a number one budget priority, just as we strongly encouraged Government to make sure that the COVID-19 recovery was underpinned by housing construction.

It is disappointing when you read media releases like we did on the weekend where the Government says it is contributing $100 million towards 1000 new homes which will be delivered by the community housing providers who are part of the Better Housing Futures reforms that the Labor-Greens government and a Greens minister introduced. However, I wonder what is happening to Housing Tasmania and whether there is an ongoing move to undermine the viability of the public housing authority over the medium to slightly longer term. That is a concern.

Shelter Tasmania urges an urgent response to homelessness and housing hardship and says that the conditions that were there before the pandemic are still there. It points out that Hobart has been in the top two capital cities for unaffordable rentals since the National Rental Affordability Index began in 2015, and that Hobart has been Australia's least affordable capital city since 2018. This goes to the question of supply and the ongoing underinvestment in increasing the supply of social and affordable housing and the unwillingness of a conservative government to properly regulate short-stay accommodation.

The Shelter Tasmania submission makes the point that Hobart has faced record levels of rental unaffordability for some years. CoreLogic reported last year that Hobart's median rent had overtaken Melbourne's median rent, yet the income difference between Hobart and Melbourne is more than $30 000 a year. The median income for a renting household in Hobart is $64 000 and about $93 000 for a Melbourne house. The submission goes on -

Even though rents have declined slightly in Hobart and across Tasmania, according to the most recent reports this is not enough to relieve the shortage of affordable housing for people on low to moderate incomes.

The evidence that came before the parliamentary inquiry is that the shortfall of social and affordable housing in Tasmania is at around 11 000 homes. There should be a dramatic acceleration of investment in social and affordable housing. The minister might say $100 000 or whatever number he is interjecting over there, but we have had the Premier consistently talk about an infrastructure budget that is over $2 billion, so $100 million out of a $2 billion infrastructure budget is not enough when the evidence has come before parliament that we need at least 11 000 new homes.

Housing is critical social infrastructure. It is more important to the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians than new bits of road and the roadworks that are happening all over Tasmania, many of which are over-designed and overdone. The one that comes to mind first is the Perth bypass which looks like something out of a San Francisco freeway map. It is massive, it is over-designed and overdone, while Tasmanians on low incomes are still struggling to find a secure and affordable home.