Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (10:18): The New South Wales South Coast has long been experiencing difficulty with social and affordable housing access. It is no secret and should be no surprise. But what is happening now, thanks to COVID and the bushfires and a range of other factors, is absolutely alarming. What was a social and affordable housing crisis is now spilling into the private rental market, making it almost impossible to find a home anywhere for any reason. In January, the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales released figures which showed that the South Coast has the lowest rental vacancy rate in New South Wales, at just 0.3 per cent in December 2020. That is down from 4.8 per cent in March 2020. This escalation deserves immediate and urgent attention from government at all levels.
I was pleased to welcome Labor's Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness to my electorate last week to talk about what we can do to address this. I would like to thank the Shadow Minister for giving this issue his time and attention, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him on this issue. Jason Clare and I sat down with community housing provider Southern Cross Housing in Nowra in what was an informative and interesting discussion, if not alarming. They too are worried about what they can see unfolding. They are dealing with an old housing stock given to them by the New South Wales Government.
They have seen a trend of rents going up in their leasehold properties. It is getting harder and harder to find temporary accommodation for those experiencing a housing crisis. They want to build and invest in more social and affordable housing, but they need support and investment by government to get it going. We know there are projects ready to get off the ground and even more that could get there if this funding was available.
Southern Cross Housing has been lucky enough to receive some land from Shoalhaven City Council to build a new housing project in Bomaderry but more investment from the federal and state governments is needed to get this project started. Without urgent and serious investment in this type of project we are all genuinely terrified about what the next 12 to 24 months will look like for those people in our community looking for housing. And it isn't just those in housing stress, it can be anyone looking for a place to rent because there just isn't anything available. Things will only get worse without urgent action. I am willing to work with anyone to address this—local, state or federal. I am asking for governments at all levels to come together now to start working towards a solution. A 10-year plan sounds great but if it isn't translating into housing projects starting now it will just be more dust on the bookshelf. What we need is a stimulus package and we need it now. I have too many cases of people desperately looking for homes. It simply breaks my heart to get to the end of what I can do as their representative. That is what we are dealing with and it needs addressing now.