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Social Housing Supply


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Tags: Housing Crisis, Housing, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for HOUSING, Mr FERGUSON

Mr Speaker, the Acting Premier's answers together took up about 12 minutes of the House's time. I am simply raising with you that the answers today have so far been very long.

Ms Ogilvie - You didn't even ask for indulgence.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am asking for this House to be run smoothly and fairly.

Minister, the Budget papers reveal the consequences of seven years of underfunding social housing supply. They contain an admission of complete defeat, with the housing waitlist projected to balloon out to 5025 desperate Tasmanians next year. The housing data is the worst since at least 2006, which is as far back as we have been able to look.

While the Budget gifts a sizable land tax break to the propertied class, whose investment properties are skyrocketing in value due to the supply shortage your Government created, it delays the new social housing build and supported accommodation spend until 2023 24. That means more housing stress, ever higher rents, more evictions and more homelessness.

Are you too busy building roads in your portfolio to put the necessary focus on homes for Tasmanians that is so desperately needed?

 

ANSWER

Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Clark, the Leader of the Greens, for her question and her genuine interest in housing outcomes for Tasmanians. I know that as a former housing minister, Ms O'Conner is well aware of the need that exists for people on the margins of society and we want to support them. That is why we have the most generous, strongest, largest infrastructure program for housing in the state's history, possibly since the Second World War, if not ever.

The Government is determined to support people during their time of need. There is an explanation for the high pressure in the housing market. There are two reasons. We have population growth - people returning to Tasmania and people flocking to our state because they want to be here. This state has an energy and an economic vitality that it has not seen probably in my lifetime. People are excited about Tasmania. That is very different -

Ms O'Connor - Take some responsibility.

Mr FERGUSON - I was generous a moment ago to Ms O'Connor. It is very different from when Ms O'Connor was in government. Labor and the Greens ran the economy down. They basically shut down the forest industry. We had people fleeing our state like economic refugees across Bass Strait looking for work in the mainland states.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker, standing order 45, relevance. The minister has been on his feet for about 30 seconds and has not gone anywhere near an answer. I ask you to draw him to the question. This matters to people.

Mr SPEAKER - The minister has been on his feet for one minute, 40 seconds. He has an appropriate amount of time to answer the question. He is allowed to answer it how he wishes. There was a lot of leniency given to the question when it was put. The minister has the right to answer how he likes. I cannot put words in the minister's mouth. I am sure the minister was getting around to the specifics. I will allow the minister to continue.

Ms O'Connor - Yes, just talk about people's homes and lives.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, order. The minister will continue. No interjections from other members, please.

Mr FERGUSON - Under Labor and the Greens, people were fleeing the state. That lifted pressure off the housing sector. During this period of economic success and growth and people moving to our state, there are more people living here. They need homes. We are determined to build more houses so that we can provide a safe and secure roof over people's heads.

The Government in its first seven years has delivered big time in housing. Since the release of our Affordable Housing Strategy in 2015 we have been delivering. Through the life of the Government to the current actions plans 1 and 2 - and I have to give credit to Mrs Petrusma and Mr Jaensch - $200 million over those eight years has assisted 3600 households. That is phenomenal. The Government also secured the waiver of the longstanding housing debt with the Commonwealth. That funding that is realised as a result is recurrent benefit for our state. That is assisting 400 households. Since that Affordable Housing Strategy we built 1105 new long-term homes, 972 social housing properties and 133 units of supported accommodation including, I am advised, 298 in the past year.

We were endorsed at the election by the people of Tasmania on 1 May. We have new commitments which are part of the Budget before the House right now. We are determined to see them through. We are grateful for the support we have received, particularly from those in the housing sector who want to see this housing delivered. There are 524 homes being built right now around the states.

There is more to do. The $315 million of additional funding towards housing and homelessness support programs is not just about the current election cycle but also about the future. We are extending the social housing building pipeline by providing $280 million to build 2000 extra homes past 2023; investing $20 million for new supported accommodation facilities in the north and the north west of the state; $15.3 million for new youth housing initiatives, including the under-16 Lighthouse Project, modular youth housing and the disbursed Youth Foyer model.

Ms White - What, 2035?

Mr FERGUSON - The member interjects. Well, that is after 2023. That is through to 2027 because we have future-looking policies. For those who cannot wait that long, 1500 homes will be built in the next two years, with 524 being built right now. There is a contest of ideas and so it should be.

In the election which was fiercely debated, the Opposition promised to build the same sequence of homes but with nearly $100 million less. I do not know how they imagined in that fairy tale that they would deliver such outcomes. Micro-housing perhaps?

This is not a Liberal, Labor, Green thing. Every Tasmanian has an interest in this. This side of the House has a genuine commitment to providing the immediate support that people need today, tonight for people who do not have a safe place to spend the night, for tomorrow and the in the next two years as we roll out those additional homes and social supported accommodation. Do not lose sight of the pipeline, a strong, steady and guaranteed pipeline of new housing stock beyond the period of elections and the Budget cycle.

I assure Ms O'Connor that I can build roads and bridges as well as houses. This side of the House is grateful that we are building more infrastructure not less. While the Labor-Greens government in its last year of office spent only $27 million on housing, this financial year we are spending $91 million.