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Treasury - Housing Funding

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Housing Crisis, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Treasurer, I want to take you to Budget Paper No. 2, Volume 1, page 60. It's performance indicators in the Housing portfolio.

The Labor-Greens government, which you deride, left the housing waiting list at its lowest level in a decade and built nearly 2500 new homes within four years. This key performance indicator talks about applicants on the housing register going from 3330 people in 2018 to 5025 people next year. That is an admission of defeat, isn't it?

Mr GUTWEIN - I don't believe so. What it demonstrates is that we have a strong growing economy and there are challenges within it. We know that house prices are going up. On one hand, the high number of Tasmanians - we still have the highest per capita home ownership rate in the country - for many people, that is a good thing -

Ms O'CONNOR - Not for young people.

Mr GUTWEIN - But for others it creates challenges. This is why we we put forward a multiplicity of options. The ancillary dwellings option, which there has been a great appetite for. We are looking at how we can bring forward additional investment, as well, in the private sector with the headworks and holidays to assist getting further investment out of the ground. And we are building more houses than we have ever done before.

Ms O'CONNOR - Under your previous housing minister, from 2015 to 2021, 1105 new long-term homes were built, so less than 200 new homes a year. Yet your Government is promising to build 3500 new homes by the year 2027. Can you explain why the capital expenditure for that new social infrastructure - the new promised builds - doesn't arrive for another two years?

Mr GUTWEIN - One of the challenges we have is that the housing industry is absolutely flat-out at the moment. We have had that discussion with Dr Broad earlier on with regard to investment, where slabs are being laid but significant investment in the properties isn't occurring at the moment because the industry is flat-out.

It is time to ensure that we can meet the commitment we have made when we would expect the industry to be in a position where, through training but also through being able to finish a significant number of the current builds, there is an opportunity for those houses to be built.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is two years in which young people will not be able to buy a home and many are not able to afford the rentals. And it is not just young people who are in that position.

Another performance measure is the housing portfolio owned and/or managed by the community sector. This has been a matter of some debate for some time. As you would be aware, we transferred management of around 4500 Housing Tasmania homes to the community housing sector. Is it Government policy to hand over title to the community housing providers?

Mr GUTWEIN - There has been a combination of that in the past, as you are aware. More recently, it has been the management transfer as opposed to title. One of the challenges in terms of the original title transfers the previous government engaged in some years ago was that it didn't provide the confidence of lenders to leverage against that portfolio to then build more stock.

Ms O'CONNOR - We didn't hand over title. We transferred management.

Mr GUTWEIN - You transferred management, which didn't provide the confidence to lenders, or that is what we were being advised -

Ms O'CONNOR - By the providers.

Mr GUTWEIN - And there wasn't that additional investment occurring at that time. There was, from memory, a title transfer -

Ms O'CONNOR - About 500 properties.

Mr GUTWEIN - But in recent times, the confidence of lenders has been there and we are now seeing significant other investment occur as a result of the transfer of just the management rights. That is my understanding.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can I ask you to wrap up in a nutshell - and this is not a Dorothy, but for young people, for single-parent families, people who are living on the margins like the wonderful young woman I know, who works at Bunnings, saved up a deposit, she has worked so hard and she can't afford a house because nothing is under $400 000. What's your message to these young Tasmanians?

Mr GUTWEIN - The most important thing that we can do to take pressure off the demand is to increase supply. I have said this publicly on a number of occasions, I've shouted out to local government for the work they've done in the last 12 months especially, where our dwelling approvals have reached almost record highs - the highest level of dwelling approvals we've seen in 25 years, if memory serves me correctly. In a normal year we have somewhere between 2500 and 2800 dwelling approvals. We've seen, in rolling months through the course of this year, over 4000 approvals. That has brought forward a lot of supply. We are going to see more properties coming out of the ground. On top that, we are trying to increase supply by the ancillary dwellings program, allowing people to have, effectively, the granny flat that can be built under specific planning rules to enable that additional supply to come into the marketplace.

There are a range of other levers we're pulling; like the headworks holiday, to ensure that we can bring forward as much supply as possible, which will take pressure off the demand side.

Ms O'CONNOR - You recognise that this is urgent, don't you?

Mr GUTWEIN - I do. As you sit there, we have a housing industry that is flat out at the moment. It's recruiting as hard as it possibly can. We've got local government that is doing what they can as well, in terms of ensuring that approvals are granted as quickly as possible.

Ms O'CONNOR - According to Hobart City Council, we have an increase in rough sleepers and I am sure that's happening all over the island, because people can't afford their rents.

Mr GUTWEIN - What we are doing there with the wrap-around services and the other supports, we are doing our very best to manage that as well.