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Tasmanian Housing Crisis

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 19 October 2022

Tags: Housing, Housing Crisis

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, the problem the minister has is that he lives in this fantasy land where he thinks that a promise to spend money in the future is delivery. It is not. It is an absolute fantasy. The truth is that, as the 2022-23 State Budget said, since the commencement of the Affordable Housing Strategy in 2015 and to the end of January 2022, 1254 new long-term homes have been built.

Between 2010 and 2014, in a Labor-Greens government with a federal government that took housing delivery seriously, we built twice as many new, affordable homes in half the time. It is insulting to hear this minister pretend that a promise is a tangible because it is not. It means nothing to Tasmanians who cannot afford to rent or buy and who fear homelessness and eviction.

As to the Housing Register data, I remind the minister again that in the Labor-Greens government, a Greens housing minister had the housing waiting list at its lowest level in a decade. It was then sitting at 2100 applicants - still too high. When the Liberals came to government there were 2100 applicants on the Housing Register. As of today there are 4455 applicants, with the budget projecting that it will rise to over 5000. Again, overpromising and underdelivering every time with this Government.

The rolling 12-month average for time to house priority applicants is now 71.2 weeks, up from 58.9 weeks a year ago. We also have a huge issue with short-stay accommodation, which this Government refuses to act to regulate, so you have councils like Dorset Council using the mechanism of a waste levy to levy hire charges on Airbnb property owners because they regard those properties as a commercial venture, which they are.

We also have rents absolutely soaring. The Domain rental report documents massive rent growth in Tasmania. Rents in Hobart are at a record high, with the medium rent at $540 a week, and suburbs like Rokeby and Brighton have seen rises of 60 per cent in rents. Elsewhere rents are up too, with big increases in Devonport and Launceston. Of course it is families who are caught up in this failure of the Liberal Government over the past eight years to really take the need to deliver social, public, affordable housing.

I mention the case of Barry. Barry, his partner and two children have lived in a Lenah Valley property for nine years. Housing Tasmania needs to conduct maintenance to the kitchen so the family has to relocate. Barry says this major work is only required because the property has been neglected for maintenance previously. The family knows the work is necessary and appreciates it will be done. However, the way it has been handled by Housing Tasmania, I very much regret to say, has made life extremely difficult for Barry and his family.

Barry's children both have special needs and so the location they move to is really important. They were only given the opportunity to view the property they are supposed to call home for three months or more last Thursday, when they were supposed to move on Monday this week. The property is totally unsuitable for his children's needs and does not permit pets, which poses a huge problem because Barry's son has a pet dog he loves very much.

We asked the minister's office and appealed to them to consider Barry's case on Friday and we are really happy that they immediately got in touch with Housing Tasmania. Barry expected to hear something after that. Instead, he sat by his phone all weekend worrying about what could happen. After we prompted the minister's office, and they in turn acted immediately to prompt Housing Tasmania on Monday, Barry finally got his answer. He and his family must relocate to the unsuitable accommodation. Barry was told his family had 24 hours to be out of their long-term home and that workers would be sent to change the locks at 1 pm yesterday.

Is this a way to treat a good tenant of nine years? No, it is certainly not a good way to treat anyone. When the workers showed up yesterday the family refused to leave, and now they are very worried about what is going to happen to them. They have not done anything wrong but they are scared that they could now face eviction.

Mr Speaker, this is a question for the minister: what is next for Barry and his family? We certainly hope a better solution can be found. This is what Louise and Barry have said to Housing Tasmania:

We absolutely understand that the house at 1 Cranswick Ct, Lenah Valley, needs repair. I believe years of poor maintenance practices have led to the degradation of this property and brought this kind of situation to a head.

We, Louise, Barry, Emily and Nicholas, all believe we have done nothing wrong in these present circumstances. In fact, we have been worthy tenants for the last nine years, quiet and respectful tenants and neighbours, hence we do not understand why are you treating us this way. How can you expect to send us to a property - insurance have told us it is a minimum of four months' work - which we could only access to view last week on Thursday, and this was only one working day before you schedule our departure time from Lenah Valley?

Having viewed the property on Thursday we became acutely aware that it was unsuitable. This arrangement you have made with the property at Warrane on our behalf is completely inappropriate for the needs of this family. We do not say this lightly. We do not want to cause problems, but forcing us to move to the property at Warrane will compromise both the safety and wellbeing of this family.

Do you not know that Emily has cerebral palsy and other complicated health needs? Do you not know that Nicholas has autism?

Furthermore, I do not understand why you are sending tradesmen over to the property at Lenah Valley today to change the locks. Why are you doing this? Barry and I have repeatedly told you that we are not leaving the property at Lenah Valley to move to the temporary accommodation at Warrane.

I say again, we absolutely understand that the property at Lenah Valley needs fixing, but the arrangement you made on our behalf is unsatisfactory and compromises particularly the wellbeing of Emily and Nicholas. I am hoping there will be an extension of time before works begin on the property at Lenah Valley so as to find another suitable temporary accommodation for my family and I.

These situations arise because for years after being elected, this Liberal government, under then premier Will Hodgman, did not put one extra red cent into building more homes. It was not until the 2016-17 state budget that we began to see some new money going into the delivery of social and affordable housing. That is what happening here. You have a government that is playing catch-up. You have a minister who is playing with Monopoly money and we encourage him to get on with the job.