Speech: Social Housing

Speech: Social Housing  Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (11:08):  Thank you Deputy Speaker and thank you to the Member for Newcastle for bringing this very important motion to the House. The Morrison Government wants to talk about stimulus. They want to talk about recovery. They want to make sure builders and tradies can keep their jobs. I agree, Deputy Speaker, absolutely. But what I don't agree with is the solution put forward by those opposite—giving cash handouts to people who can afford $150,000 renovations, while not spending a single dollar on social housing. That is no solution. Not only would investing in social and affordable housing create local jobs and stimulate our economy; investing in housing also reduces health costs, reduces costs for our justice system and protects those who are less fortunate.

During the Global Financial Crisis, Labor spent $5.6 billion on building new social housing. We committed to 100,000 National Rental Affordability Scheme dwellings, built 21,000 new social housing dwellings and repaired a further 80,000. One of the big challenges of COVID-19 has been finding appropriate housing for people living rough on our streets. We have housed them in hotels and temporary accommodation—very necessary and welcome—but why aren't we looking for a long-term solution? If the government were serious about fixing the homelessness problem in Australia, they would be investing in affordable housing projects in our regional communities right now.


My electorate on the New South Wales South Coast is a good place to start. According to a South Coast Register article published in September last year, over 1,000 applicants for social housing from Kiama to Ulladulla will be forced to wait more than five years for a home. Some will even be waiting more than 10 years, including those looking for a three bedroom home in Nowra or Bomaderry, those looking for a two bedroom home in Kiama or anyone looking for somewhere in Huskisson. That's struggling local families waiting 10 years for help. That is simply not good enough.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are social housing projects in my electorate ready to get off the ground right now. If only the government would invest in them. As just one example, Shoalhaven City Council has already identified a site for its affordable-housing project in Bomaderry. It is close to services and public transport. It is also an area of high need. We know there are so many people in the Nowra-Bomaderry area waiting for homes. In 2017 the council even engaged the Illawarra chapter of the Property Council of Australia to develop the plans for the affordable-housing project at this site. The Property Council provided insight from architects, planners, developers and property surveyors—all for free. Only two months ago the council agreed that Southern Cross Housing will be provided the land and buildings when it is finished. The project is moving forward.

It seems that absolutely everyone can see the value in investing in affordable housing. So why won't the Federal Government step up and provide funding support so that local families can finally get a roof over their heads? Only three weeks ago we marked National Homelessness Week. Coincidentally it was around the same time my community experienced some extreme weather—freezing temperatures, wind, rain and flood. It was hard not to be struck by the injustice of it all: drawing attention to homelessness while, at the same time, picturing people sleeping rough in the bush, the rain and the cold. No-one should have to live like that.

The government needs to sort out its priorities. The much hyped HomeBuilder program is not helping those who need it. It isn't helping people impacted by bushfire, it isn't helping people impacted by flood and it isn't helping local people sleeping rough. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has identified a shortfall of 433,000 social housing dwellings over the next 20 years. In June 2018, across Australia we had 140,000 Australians on social housing waitlists. In my electorate, families are waiting 10 years for a home. We simply must urgently invest in social and affordable housing in our regional and rural areas, just like the project in Bomaderry. We absolutely can stimulate our economy, create local jobs and work towards a recovery from a year of drought, bushfires, flood and COVID-19 while also helping those who need it most. We know that investing in housing will deliver the maximum ongoing public benefit to communities on the South Coast—more than giving $25,000 to people renovating their homes ever could. We simply must start now.