Speech to Parliament About Housing

Ms SANDELL (Melbourne) — It is my pleasure to speak to the Housing Amendment (Victorian Housing Register and Other Matters) Bill 2016. The Greens will be supporting this bill to create a centralised Victorian Housing Register for the benefit of those seeking affordable housing. We are really glad to see a process that will combine the previous public housing waiting and transfer lists with over 40 community housing waiting lists into one streamlined process. It is something the Greens called for in our policy before the 2014 state election, and it is really great to see the government implement it. I would like to commend the government and the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing on this initiative.

It will, as others have mentioned, make it fairer for everyone. People will not have to constantly shop around and apply for different systems to get a place in affordable housing. Hopefully it means that more people who are of greatest need at the top of the waiting list are chosen first for both public and community housing spaces. Obviously, though, this alone will not solve Victoria's public housing crisis. The only thing that will do that is a significant increase in public housing stock and a significant investment in maintenance. There are simply not enough public housing places for people who need them at the moment.

We know there are over 33 000 applicants for social housing and 6000 applicants for transfers on the waiting list at the moment, so that is more than 35 000 people and families who are actually eligible for a public housing spot, who need a home, but who have not yet received one. These numbers really do indicate a crisis. It is disappointing to see that this government, after two years, has not managed to get this crisis under control. The total number of people waiting for a home or a transfer has not improved over the two years of this government. I agree with government members who have talked about the previous Liberal government doing nothing to solve the problem apart from perhaps kicking people off the waiting list unnecessarily, but we do still spend less here in Victoria per capita on public housing than any other state.

I have also heard some concerning rumours and reports that the Labor government might be intending to pass the buck on this crisis by privatising a large portion of public housing in Victoria by transferring a large amount of public housing to the private or non-profit sector. Large-scale transfers or the privatisation of public housing are really not the answers to the public housing problems. Community housing providers do invaluable work. I have worked with many of them and visited many of them. They should be supported, but in addition to public housing, not instead of it. Every day my office sees people who are languishing waiting for a house or waiting for a transfer or waiting for much-needed maintenance. They are mums and dads who are just after a safe place for themselves and their families to live. Some of them are single applicants who simply do not have a support network to turn to and are really, really struggling.

As we know, having suitable housing affect all parts of somebody's life, and it has significant flow-on impacts for the government, from the healthcare system to employment and the justice system. So it really is important that we get this right and that we keep public housing as an essential government service.

Governments — especially Labor governments, I have to say — really should not wash their hands of their responsibilities when it comes to public housing. While we will be supporting a common housing register, we will also continue to advocate for more support for all forms of affordable housing, including policies like inclusionary zoning, which we were promised by the government but which has not yet been delivered. We will especially continue to stand alongside the community in calling for more public housing and better services and maintenance in existing public housing.

I very much look forward to the government's housing policy, which is due — like many other policies — before the end of the year. I really hope that it does not let down the people who are on the public housing waiting list or those who may need it in the future. Instead I hope that it really seriously improves the situation that we have with public housing in this state. If it does, I would be really happy to work with the government to help solve this problem.

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