Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund Bill 2016

11th October 2016

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 17:10 :44 ): I contribute to debate on the Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund Bill 2016 and state at the outset that I support the bill. I acknowledge the Government's efforts to provide adequate and affordable housing in this State. I also acknowledge the efforts of the Government and the Minister in this space as it is one of those areas in which sometimes one cannot take a trick. It is expensive to fix the issue and to satisfy demands right across New South Wales. My observation of Minister Hazzard is that he is taking this matter seriously and I believe his efforts in this space should be acknowledged.

A number of speakers have also raised the issue of maintenance and the quality of public and social housing stock in New South Wales. It is a very real issue. I am sure—unless there is some extraordinary reason—that every member in this Chamber has a list of problems relating to properties in their electorates. Members from electorates such as mine, which have a higher number of social housing properties, would probably know that better than others. In my electorate we have large areas of public housing in Toronto West and problems around Bolton Point, Marmong Point and other areas throughout my electorate.

Today the member for Coogee tabled a report from the Public Accounts Committee, of which he is the chair and of which both Temporary Speaker Evans and I are members. We have had a good look at this report. While there is no clear or easy solution, we have taken heart from our observations in the inquiry held a few months ago that many things are happening in this area and that we are in a significant period of change from which I hope residents and tenants in all electorates will benefit. I hope that members take the opportunity to read that report and take some heart from it.

While I acknowledge that the $1.1 billion Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund [SAHF] honours the commitment this Government made prior to the last election, I also acknowledge that it has widespread support within my electorate, particularly from those organisations that work hard to put a roof over the heads of many vulnerable families. Delivering this fund addresses at least part of the need and responds to calls over many years for more action in this area from non-government organisations and advocacy groups. I also acknowledge expert opinion that suggests the first stage of the SAHF would provide as many as 3,000 much-needed additional homes for the socially or financially disadvantaged—but, as has been said by other speakers, that barely scratches the surface. However, on that basis I take the opportunity, as others have done, to draw attention to the need in my area of Lake Macquarie and indeed within the region.

I am very much in favour of providing new and upgraded public housing, not just in Lake Macquarie but also throughout the State. For varying reasons, many people would be unable to provide adequate accommodation for themselves or their families without this assistance. Providing this assistance is a reflection of a mature and supportive community and, most importantly, it is an investment in the families and children who live in public housing. The latest data from Family and Community Services shows that the waiting lists for social housing in my electorate are among the longest and worst in the State, matched only by waiting lists in the neighbouring local government areas of Gosford and Wyong.

I acknowledge that there are many other electorates with similar numbers. The current waiting time for a one-bedroom, two-bedroom or three-bedroom home in Lake Macquarie is more than 10 years and has been for a long time. It is only marginally better for those seeking a four-bedroom home. There is a large and growing population in Lake Macquarie, where many people choose to live because it is between the major employment areas of Newcastle and Sydney and because the great Australian dream of buying a home is somewhat cheaper there. That dream, however, is quickly evaporating as home prices soar in suburbs that have traditionally provided more affordable options.

The latest figures from property monitoring services Domain and RP Data show that the median house price in Lake Macquarie is now $490,000. Double-digit annual growth has been the norm in some suburbs for many years. I acknowledge the member for Charlestown, who will probably speak after me, and her role as the former mayor of Lake Macquarie. She would understand the growth, demand and price pressures that are happening right around the area which, for many reasons, is a desirable area in which to live. Average incomes recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in those same suburbs are well short of what is required to buy a house in that median range.

The great Australian dream is being pushed further and further away from young people and families. More and more people will have to rely on subsidised or social housing or find a way of putting an affordable roof over their heads. The SAHF is even more important because it will allow not-for-profit housing providers to deliver more housing stock as well as fund programs that will help people to transition from the public housing sector and buy a home of their own. At the moment, social housing providers are somewhat hamstrung in finding cash flows to bridge the gap between the rents they bring in, the administrative costs they shell out and the revenue required to boost new housing stocks. I believe this fund and the annual interest it accrues through sound investment—and I hope sound investment is exactly what we will get—will help them to find the seed capital they need to fund more housing and more programs to get people into their own homes.

The fund is broadly supported by the NSW Council of Social Service and the social housing providers in my electorate, but we would like to see the first phases of the funding program specifically targeted to areas that are the most in need. As I have said, that includes areas such as Lake Macquarie and our neighbours in the Central Coast region, where housing shortages and worsening rates of housing affordability are having severe impacts on young people and vulnerable families. In conclusion, while there are some caveats on the issue, overall this can only be seen as a good move. I acknowledge that the Opposition is supporting this bill but is rightly flagging the need to make sure that a focus is kept on this, that the fund does deliver returns—but we need to roll it over and reinvest in social housing—and that we look for other opportunities as well, because this in itself will not resolve the situation for New South Wales.

Website: Read full Parliamentary debate

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