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State Development, Construction and Housing – Future of Housing Tasmania

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Tags: Social and Affordable Housing

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I am interested in what you see as the future of Housing Tasmania, notwithstanding the structural changes that will be made. In the Homes Act 1935, I am sure you are aware, there are obligations placed on the Director of Housing to provide affordable social housing. Given that Housing Tasmania's stock portfolio under its ownership and management I think now sits under 7000 homes, are you able to outline to the committee whether Housing Tasmania or the new housing entity will continue to have that social responsibility and authority to really be the housing enabler of last resort?

Mr BARNETT - Thanks very much for your question and I would like to say I appreciate the goodwill around this table and I acknowledge it -

Ms O'CONNOR - On this subject, yes.

Mr BARNETT - on this matter and this portfolio in particular. I just want to put that on the record. I think what unites us is far greater than what divides us, so I share that up front. As a newish minister I take this job very seriously. This will be set out in legislation and there will be clearly defined roles, responsibilities and functions for the new housing authority. It will be governed by a skills-based board reporting to me as the relevant minister. I will be taking advice and feedback from the authority and from the key stakeholders in the community and housing sector, the community services sector, and the building and construction sector to ensure we are able to implement a very big, bold and ambitious vision for Tasmania, in terms of rolling out new homes but also in providing homelessness services. I emphasise the latter. The here and now is really important and the housing authority will absolutely have a role in that regard as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - Maybe you did not understand my question or chose not to. The question relates to what the new entity's responsibility will be for being a provider and enabler of social and affordable housing? Ever since 1935 when the Homes Act was first passed by the parliament, it has been the responsibility of the state, through Housing Tasmania, to provide social and affordable housing. That means to build them within that portfolio, to be a manager where it needs to be. I am trying to understand what the future looks like for an agency that has a long and proud track record of delivering social and affordable housing where it could afford to?

Mr BARNETT - I do appreciate the question. There is no effort to not answer the question. I would not want any suggestion to the contrary.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you see what I am getting at?

Mr BARNETT - I do. I want to make it clear that those responsibilities and objectives are the same under the Housing Authority as under the previous Homes Act. They are very similar or the same, in terms of the objectives, to meet the needs of vulnerable Tasmanians in housing and homelessness.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is it your intention that Housing Tasmania, the new statutory authority, continues to administer the homes within the Housing Tasmania portfolio?


Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, the budget papers, despite the big promises, and we've had a lot of them over the last eight years, confirm that the housing crisis will only deepen, at least in the near term. We have information here on the housing register, which when we left government was at its lowest level in a decade. The target for 2021-22 is 4500, I think it is higher than that, but the target for 2022-23 is 5025 on the register. I don't know about you, minister, but to me that points to the consequences of the failure to deliver and there is not a lot of hope in this budget for people who are looking for a home, can't afford a rental or want to transfer out of an unsuitable Housing Tasmania property. I have the numbers here and you dispute the numbers we have laid out from the Report on Government Services, but how is it going to be any different under a new authority given the failure to deliver over the past eight years?

Mr BARNETT - Thank you very much for the question and I assure you and members of the committee that we want to instil hope into the lives of vulnerable Tasmanians and those in homelessness, because that can make a difference in their lives, to help them achieve their potential and to support them and their families during what is a very difficult time. In terms of the numbers, I will pass to the deputy secretary to assist the committee to outline further.

Ms O'CONNOR - The question was how is it going to be any different under a new authority given the failure to increase supply?

Mr BARNETT - Well, I can answer that part but I thought you had another question about the numbers. In terms of how it will be different, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to support those in housing stress who are vulnerable, and that is why we have established the housing authority to deliver, buy and establish the 10 000 homes by 2032. It is a very big and ambitious agenda. That is why we have committed $36 million a year for wraparound services to provide that support vulnerable Tasmanians need.

We are very committed to it. I think the Budget outlines that record funding commitment with $538 million over the forward Estimates and $204 million in this year alone in terms of capital. On top of that, I should note there is a further $650 million in operational expenses. I wouldn't want you to think that it is just build, build, build. There is more to support all the things that we're doing. That is a very substantial amount of taxpayer money over the forward Estimates.