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Matter of Public Importance - Housing

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Tags: Housing Crisis, Social and Affordable Housing

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Clark for raising this important issue as a matter of pubic importance.

The Greens supported the Homes Tasmania legislation to establish Homes Tasmania - not without some reluctance - in the last year or so. There was some reluctance because of the powers and abilities afforded. We are watching the Government very closely regarding the performance of Homes Tasmania, the administration of the budget afforded - and, indeed, the budget it is given every single year.

We see the Homes Tasmania strategy, the Tasmanian Housing strategy, and note that it is a glossy document that contains numerous very welcome commitments. We hear the minister repeatedly reference the 10 000 homes by 2032. This is a very laudable target and we 100 per cent support that. However, when we do the analysis around that commitment - 10 000 homes, and $1.5 billion over 10 years to deliver that commitment - we are deeply concerned, because that equates to spending $150 million every single year on building houses - and yet, when we analyse the Budget, we see that last year only $87 million was allocated to this kind of build. There is clearly a shortfall there.

At the end of the forward Estimates, in a couple of years' time, that will increase to $98 million. That upward trend is very welcomed, but I note that, at the very best, this is still $52 million short of the Government's own indication of the $150 million that is required every single year to deliver those 10 000 houses.

We are seriously concerned about the shortfall in funding for Homes Tasmania and its ability to deliver those 10 000 homes by 2032. We will be tracking the Government's process and its figures every time they announce them. The Homes Tasmania dashboard does hold some interesting information - and, indeed, concerning information. We note that an applicant on the public housing wait list still has to wait an average of 80 weeks to be housed.

Ms Haddad raised the issue of purchasing tenanted homes from the private sector and putting them into the public sector. We are deeply concerned that this strategy is an abrogation of responsibility in many ways.

On one hand, yes, it is a positive that homes are going and guaranteed to get into the social housing register - but on the other hand, simply cannibalising the private rental market to top up the social housing market is not a good strategy in our mind. It costs a lot of money. We are buying them on the open market at presumably current rates, which are elevated at the moment. We hear the Opposition's concerns around the future of the tenants in those houses.

There is a motion to be debated later in the day. From the Greens' perspective, there is a range of very pertinent questions contained in that motion that we will be supporting. With or without a motion from the House, we hope the Government would provide that kind of information about this kind of housing strategy.

Moving beyond Homes Tasmania, housing is a fundamental human right. We all deserve and have a right to a home over our heads. Beyond Housing Tasmania, the Greens hold concerns and will continue to prosecute an agenda to help renters get into homes and stay in homes when they get there.

In Tasmania, with the exorbitant rental increases available to landlords, there is a need for rental controls so that tenants can have confidence when they do get into a house that they can stay in that house. When it comes to no-cause evictions, when a tenant's lease expires there should be no reason why that tenant is evicted, simply so the rent can be jacked up and the property continues to be rented out.

Significant issues need to be addressed in Tasmania. No one of these issues in isolation is going to deliver a solution for the housing crisis in Tasmania. When combined, they can create effective measures that increase protection for renters and increase their security.

Mrs Alexander asked questions around pets and the right of tenants to keep pets. The Attorney-General committed to look at that. That is very welcome. We support that very clearly. Minimum standards for rental properties in terms of energy efficiency and other measures is a critical improvement that clearly needs to be made across the rental market.

The double whammy that is happening in the housing market at the moment is not only the exorbitant and increasing rents for renters, but the loss of rental properties to the short-stay market. It is clear that something has to be done to deal with the short-stay market. In Hobart, 819 whole homes have been removed from the rental market and put into short stay, in Glamorgan Spring Bay 434. Not only is that a problem for renters looking for a secure place, it is a problem for industries such as the tourism sector looking to accommodate workers.

Clearly, we need to stem the decline in housing.