Below are extracts of some of the speeches made in the debate over this Bill. The entire Parliamentary debate consisted of 47,166 words and can be accessed on the Parliament of Victoria website.
Martin Foley (Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing)
Victoria is facing an increasing challenge in responding to homelessness, housing need and disadvantage. The Victorian government believes all Victorians have a right to access safe, affordable, stable and long-term housing. This is one of the key building blocks for individuals and families to fully participate in their community. A key part of this response is to make the best use of all information available to government and the community housing sector to drive better coordination and results in responding to housing and homelessness.
When the single Victorian Housing Register was launched in September this year we moved towards a more streamlined, transparent and fair way for eligible people across the state to access social housing. Victorians in need of housing support now only have to ‘tell their story’ once and submit one application.
Tim Bull (Nationals)
I rise to provide a contribution on the Housing Amendment (Victorian Housing Register and Other Matters) Bill 2016, and I state for the record that our position on this bill is to not oppose it.
The reality is that 42 per cent of public housing is over 30 years old, and that is a very good reason for there to be a significant investment in maintaining that stock. We certainly need investment in new public housing and renewal of public housing but we also need significant investment in the maintenance of existing public housing. This is perhaps one of the reasons that we see a number of public housing residences sitting idle and unoccupied. We constantly receive correspondence about public housing homes that have been sitting unoccupied not for weeks, not for one or two months but for periods of six months or more.
Anthony Carbines (Labor)
I am reminded every day that the privilege of serving in this place is in large part due to the very significant support that I receive and that the Labor Party receives from that 3081 postcode. Without their support and ongoing determination to be advocated for in this place by a Labor representative, I do not believe I would be here, so I take matters of public housing in my constituency very seriously.
I am pleased to report that as at about May this year some 133 dwellings have now been completed. This is largely due to a supercharging of the [Olympia] project under the leadership of the housing minister, the member for Albert Park, to make sure that not only are we being accountable and transparent on which properties are being sold, we are also being transparent and accountable to the community about where these new dwellings are being built.
I am very pleased that the 3081 residents group was able to work through those housing issues, was able to be inclusive and was able to provide plenty of information for the community so that this project has community confidence, transparency and the opportunity to be the success that it deserves to be. I can also point out that under that initiative we have seen now some 199 households who have actually moved, we have seen some 80 properties sold, and as of May 2016, 133 properties have been completed. We have also seen something like half of those 870 tenants who indicated an interest in wanting to move now able to take part in the project.
Frank McGuire (Labor)
I grew up in a housing commission home in Broadmeadows, and there was a great community that was established. There was a great sense of looking out for each other. How it has expanded is that in Victoria now we have about 65 000 public housing units and approximately 210 000 community housing units.
We have a successful proof of concept, and this is the Mews estate, which was converted to the Valley Park development. The current Minister for Planning, as the former Minister for Housing, was instrumental in this project under the Brumby government. It has revitalised this community. This was a smart way of dealing with how you change the mix with public, private and social housing.
Ellen Sandell (Greens)
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.
Danny Pearson (Labor)
We recognise the great obligation and responsibility that has been bestowed upon us, and we acknowledge and appreciate the fact that we may not be here for long but for the time that we are here, we will get on with it and do something about it. It is sometimes disheartening when you have people come in to your electorate. I reckon 50 per cent of my constituency work would be done for people in public housing.
Either they are homeless and they want public housing or they are in public housing and it is not safe or else public housing is not appropriate for their needs. Look at the Somali community. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to have four or five children and two parents living in a two-bedroom flat in Ascot Vale. That is tough. However, I took the view when I came here that I was going to work hard to try to increase the level of public housing and social housing in my electorate.
The house next door to mine is public housing. A single mum from Eritrea lives there and she has six children, one of whom is severely disabled. Her boy did not do too well in year 12 — he loved his footy, he wanted to play AFL. I saw him afterwards working at Woolworths. I said to him, ‘This is no good. You’ve got to get on with it. We’ve got to try to get you into a course’. Nahom is now studying at Victoria University.
Richard Riordan (Liberal)
I think the average age of public housing in Victoria is something like 35 years old. I would imagine that most of the public housing stock in my community is on the far side of 35, helping to keep the average down. Not only do we have some older stock but there is a large amount of abandoned stock. I think at last count there were nearly 20 empty public housing homes on large blocks in our community. I have had an endless procession of people through my office looking for public housing, and they ask the simple question: ‘Why is this house at this address or that house at that address sitting idle? Why can’t I move into that house?’. The question is really quite unanswerable.
Russell Northe (Liberal)
Firstly can I say, like probably many other members of this chamber, I grew up in an area in Traralgon which probably does not have the best title or nickname — that being the Bronx. Many good people obviously grew up there, and lifelong friends were made in Allen Crescent, Traralgon, and it is a shame in many respects that that term is used, because, as I say and repeat, many good people have done some great things in terms of their lives and have come out of public housing and social housing.
It is imperative that every Victorian is given the chance and the opportunity to have a roof over their head, and it is a difficult space in trying to find the balance between the number of units and apartments in particular areas as against making sure that we do provide that housing and a roof over the heads of many vulnerable Victorians.
Lizzie Blandthorn (Labor)
The right to housing and the right to social housing for those in need is something that I am particularly passionate about. It is something that is provided for in a number of international instruments, in particular the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights at article 25, which acknowledges that the right to housing is part of the right to an adequate standard of living. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in discussing whether there is a right to housing, refers to every person having the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to adequate housing. It refers to the fact that the right to housing is more than simply a right to shelter. It is a right to have somewhere to live that is adequate.
It is a right I am passionate about not only because it is a fundamental human right protected by some of our most important international covenants but because it is something I feel strongly about based on my family experience. The member for Ivanhoe yesterday talked about postcode 3081. He said he would not be in this place if it was not for postcode 3081. Neither would I, but for different reasons.
My mum grew up in housing commission accommodation in West Heidelberg. Her father had an accident when he was in his early 30s and became a quadriplegic, and their life went from one where they lived in relative security in their own home with lots of family support and things around them to one where suddenly their entire income system collapsed.
My grandmother felt there was an important need to have communities of housing of all different types and to bring people together and to support each other, and that really stemmed from her experience in West Heidelberg— from having people around her who could assist her with caring for her husband and her children in their time of need. Many years later my grandmother was living in Balwyn. She was renting a place there and somebody knocked on her door to tell her about a housing development that was proposed for the other end of her street. It was a social/public housing proposal, and the neighbour who had knocked on her door said, ‘We don’t want people like that in this street’. My nanna said, ‘You’ve already got people like that on this street. You’ve got me’. Nanna then went on to doorknock other people’s doors, arguing as to why there needed to be a mix of housing in her street and, as the member for Broadmeadows said, why there needs to be a mix of housing across our communities.
Jude Perera (Labor)
I am sure that many of us in this place have had residents call into our offices seeking the assistance of their MP in securing long-term housing. I do have many; however, I wish to actually speak about one particular case, where a family of five required urgent assistance with urgent housing. The family included two youngsters under the age of six years. Here we had a family of five which was down in the dumps, with no support and nowhere to turn for support.
The family was living out of a car owned by the mother. In view of a marriage breakdown, the family was left with no other option. After much investigation and hard work, my office was able to find the family emergency accommodation. Now the family enjoys a roof over its head and it is residing in social housing. The youngsters are back in school, and the mother and daughter are actively seeking employment. There are many doing it tough in my electorate, many through no fault of their own.
There was criticism from the Auditor-General in 2012 that registered housing agencies favoured tenants on higher incomes with higher rents. This was strong criticism that came from the Auditor-General. A couple on Newstart with commonwealth rent assistance, based on 30 per cent of their income, will pay a rent of $405.36. A couple on the age pension with commonwealth rent assistance, based on 30 per cent of their income, will pay a rent of $478.38.
A couple on an annual salary of $65 000 per annum without commonwealth rent assistance, based on 30 per cent of their income, will pay a rent of $747.95. However, community housing organisations receive government support and grants which should compensate them for taking on low-income tenants. The allocating of vacant homes in the community sector even with a common register will be a challenging task. For community housing to take 50 per cent of new tenants from the public housing waiting list was always understood as a target, and our government and community housing organisations were to work collaboratively to achieve the goal.
Richard Wynne (Labor)
I will not forget the very day that Kevin Rudd was appointed as the Prime Minister of our country. The very first thing he said to his caucus members was, ‘Go and meet with your people at the homeless shelters; go and talk to them about what their needs are’. He said, ‘We will have a package that will support those people’, and I fair dinkum nearly fell off my chair. I said, ‘It is coming from the elected representative at the highest level in the commonwealth government that we as a Labor Party should put a priority on the most vulnerable people — the homeless people in our community’. And what did he do? He was true to his word, and I had the unique opportunity of in excess of $1 billion — I think close to $1.4 billion — being provided to Victoria for the direct provision of public and social housing.