Housing crisis in Lake Macquarie

23rd June 2022

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (17:15): By the time I return to my electorate after a week here in Parliament, the median price of a house in many Lake Macquarie suburbs will have gone up by another thousand dollars. In the same week, another young family's dream of owning a home in the area they grew up in will be lost. Meanwhile, out the back of Morisset, a local charity is providing assistance to a growing number of people living in their cars while they wait for a rental property to become available. Increasingly, that same charity reports that more and more people are turning to shared, subsidised or social housing as a means of keeping a roof over their heads. It is true that recent interest rate hikes have slowed the local property market but that does not translate to more homes being available to those who need them. A little further north, in Newcastle, the median price for a home is now higher than it is in Melbourne. Yes, it is now more expensive to buy an average home in Newcastle city than it is to buy something in Australia's second-largest city—and Lake Macquarie is not far behind.

Public housing waiting lists in Lake Macquarie have not changed since I last spoke about them in this place. They are among the longest in the State. This is due in part to the large numbers of people getting out of Sydney and Newcastle, where housing is simply unaffordable to anyone earning something close to the average wage. Currently almost two families are joining that queue every day. I received an email only last week from Catherine, who has been on a public housing waiting list for 14 years. She is currently paying 80 per cent of her wage for a private rental. That is 80 per cent of an income that is not large. Now she has been told that the owner of her private rental wants to end the lease and take the property off the private rental market. Where does Catherine go now? There are barely any vacant homes available in the local area, let alone one which is in her price range.

Then there is Donna, who rents a social housing property at Bolton Point. On March 29, a number of roof tiles came off the house in a storm. The rain poured in and collapsed part of the ceiling in her 12-year-old son's bedroom. Since then, a contractor has been to the home three times, but the roof remains unrepaired. The SES has been there twice to put a tarp over the broken tiles. It is three months later and her son is still sleeping on the lounge. The house is pretty much impossible to heat because of the giant hole in the roof. How long does it take to fix a couple of broken roof tiles and, in this case, how much is it costing taxpayers? It is an appalling situation but sadly not uncommon, not just in Lake Macquarie but around the State. My office is taking dozens of calls every week from people in similar circumstances. It is heartbreaking. While I note that the Government committed a further $300 million to upgrading social housing in Tuesday's budget, those working in the sector know that this will not put more roofs over more heads.

What New South Wales urgently needs is more housing stock. We simply have to find a way of building more homes; there are more than 50,000 people on the social housing waiting list. I acknowledge the efforts being made and also note the budget commitment made by the Treasurer to build 120 new homes for rough sleepers. That will be wonderful for those 120 or so people but there are many more than that sleeping rough. The Government is also spending almost $3 million in my electorate on Aboriginal housing projects and a further $1.6 million on the maintenance of existing social housing stock. The Aboriginal Housing Office recently completed six new homes at Toronto and another at Argenton, and work on two five-bedroom homes at Bolton Point is now well underway. About 12 months ago I was joined by the former Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, Mr Gareth Ward, to open a new 94-unit social and affordable housing project at Cardiff. I know similar projects are in the pipeline.

These are all very good projects. They will no doubt allow people to build better and more productive lives, but we are still light-years from solving the problem. Thousands more dwellings are required every year if we are going to stop moving backwards. I thank the Premier and Treasurer—indeed, the Government—for the steps taken in Tuesday's budget towards solving the State's housing crisis but those steps need to be much bigger. The great Australian dream is currently well beyond many people living in this State. But, worse than that, our level of homelessness, our shortage of social housing, our standard of public housing and our efforts to protect our most vulnerable are fast becoming our great Australian failure. We must do much better. I implore this Government and future governments to keep the need for the dignity of housing at the front of mind and the front of policy.

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