Social housing in Lake Macquarie

9th February 2021

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (18:59): In a positive start to the year, last month at Cardiff I was joined by the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, the Hon. Gareth Ward, to officially open a new 94-unit social and affordable housing development. The development was the result of a partnership between the State Government and the St Vincent de Paul Society. Provision of social and affordable housing is a challenge for any government. I acknowledge that the current Government has taken some significant steps towards developing new and additional housing stock, but we still have many problems. We still have a chronic shortage, long waiting lists and significant maintenance backlogs. The number of people who contact my electorate office regarding issues with social housing is far greater than those who call about any other single issue. I imagine many other members of the House could say the same.

In Lake Macquarie we have large areas of public housing, including at Toronto West, Bolton Point, Marmong Point and other areas, yet demand is far from met. The expected waiting time for a two-bedroom property in Lake Macquarie is more than 10 years. The waiting time for a studio or one-bedroom property is between five and 10 years. It is a similar wait time for three- or four-bedroom properties. Those wait times are up there with the longest and worst in the State. Another 544 applicants had joined the local queue in the 12 months to June last year. The great Australian dream is being pushed further away from many young people and families in Lake Macquarie. The growth, demand and price pressures mean more people are pushed out of the market or further away into cheaper areas. More people are relying on subsidised or social housing to put an affordable roof over their heads. We are nowhere near meeting that demand any time soon.

The maintenance of existing housing stock is also a significant problem. I am aware of a local man who, because of holes in the roof, had to hold an umbrella over himself while he sat on the toilet every time it rained. In another case, the kitchen floor of a property was so badly eaten by termites that the elderly female occupant fell through it. Repairs involved a tradesman simply nailing a timber block over the hole, on top of the old floor. The same elderly lady then had to contend with a trip point every time she entered the kitchen. I could list dozens of cases where people have waited sometimes more than six months for what I would call basic repairs. That is the reality of social housing in Lake Macquarie and likely throughout the State, and that is without mentioning mould and mildew.

As I acknowledged earlier, it is a very difficult and complex issue for governments to solve and it cannot be remedied entirely just by throwing millions more dollars at it, although that would certainly help. I was a member of the previous Parliament, which supported the Government to establish the Social and Affordable Housing Fund in 2016. I applaud Minister Brad Hazzard for his work in getting that fund operational. It was that fund which helped build the 94 new apartments at Cardiff. It is indeed wonderful to see that decision creating great outcomes. I note that the fund has so far delivered more than 500 dwellings across the State in partnership with St Vincent De Paul alone, including some at Thornton, near Maitland, and at Dubbo, Albury and Sydney.

On the opening day at Cardiff I met a single mother, Chloe, who has a young daughter and was about to give birth to a son. She is typical of the many people who have experienced some sort of hardship and have had difficulty in finding somewhere to live. She told me that having safe and stable housing was life-changing and meant the world to her. It provided hope and optimism and was a vital step towards a better and more productive life. I applaud the Social and Affordable Housing Fund and what it is achieving, but there are 100,000 people like Chloe who are on a waiting list and need help.

Indeed, St Vincent de Paul estimates that New South Wales needs to build 5,000 new dwellings each year for the next decade if future demand and current shortages are to be met. Minister Ward is passionate about the issue and he has worked hard to address homelessness with a heightened imperative since COVID-19 appeared. He has been backed in by the Premier and the Treasurer to do that, but even with that effort there is much more to do to deliver a safe home and the dignity that that affords to many people, including families, in New South Wales.

Website: Read full Parliamentary debate

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