Question time: social housing in Lake Macquarie

22nd September 2020

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (14:26:11): My question is directed to the Minister for Water, Property and Housing. Given that Lake Macquarie and other electorate offices are reporting a seeming increase in public housing maintenance complaints, including mould, mildew and sewer, can the Minister assure that action will be taken to address that trend, noting the upcoming maintenance contract renewals?

Mrs MELINDA PAVEY (OxleyMinister for Water, Property and Housing) (14:26:41): I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question. I assure the member that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that we fix the properties that need maintenance work across the State. We spend more than $1 million a day doing that. We have responsibility for 125,000 properties across our asset portfolio. In 2019-20 an estimated $453 million was spent on our maintenance program, with about 2,000 maintenance requests received and actioned every day. Social housing tenants can report any concerns they have to our hotline. We are in constant contact with a lot of electorate offices where issues have been raised that need special and urgent attention.

Importantly, with the support of the Premier, the Deputy Premier and the Treasurer, the Government's $2.3 billion COVID-19 stimulus package enabled us to spend an extra $47 million on urgent maintenance work across our property network. As well as backing jobs, the stimulus program has delivered important capital upgrades to support people and families living in social housing properties throughout New South Wales. It is important to acknowledge that we work hard every day on this, which is why an annual tenant survey of works completed through our free-call service has seen a regularly high customer service satisfaction rating of around 90 per cent. With the stimulus money, within 12 weeks more than 2,400 new work orders were issued by the Land and Housing Corporation [LAHC]. That provided about $4 million extra per week in maintenance spending to improve over 2,200 dwellings and another 200 buildings, grounds and complexes.

This work also included pausing plans on the redevelopment of the ageing Arncliffe estate in Sydney's south, which I had visited with the Treasurer. We refurbished 142 units to provide emergency accommodation for social housing tenants through the COVID crisis. When the LAHC builds more new housing it not only provides shelter and security for people and families in need but it also reduces ongoing maintenance costs. That is what we are working towards: Making our network of homes modern and fit for purpose for today's age. We need to balance the high cost of maintaining ageing properties in some locations against the value that is created by building new homes fit for purpose so we can get our elderly people into one- and two-bedroom units, instead of three-bedroom houses on quarter-acre blocks.

For example, last week we launched the official start of a redevelopment project with our construction partner Growthbuilt where three outdated housing blocks will be knocked down and replaced with 44 high-quality, new social housing units at St Marys. That project will generate $16 million in construction activity and create an estimated 80 jobs during the project's 12-month building phase. This is exciting for western Sydney. The LAHC currently has 46 housing renewal projects underway—like the St Marys project—in the Penrith, Blacktown, Cumberland and Hawkesbury local government areas. These projects are in various stages of delivery with different construction partners. These important projects will ensure that we have a more modern social housing network, which will reduce maintenance costs. I am very aware that it is a challenge we face every day—every day 2,000 jobs are completed and more than $1 million is spent. Where there is urgent need we will always address those requests. The member for Lake Macquarie should feel free to come to my office for support.

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