Housing Amendment (Victorian Housing Register and Other Matters) Bill 2016 – Upper House Debate

Minister Jaala Pulford kicked off the debate in the Upper House.



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.

Second Reading Speech, Jaala Pulford (Labor)

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. Full implementation of the Victorian Housing Register will combine the existing public housing and over 40 community housing waiting lists into a single process. This bill provides the necessary legal assurance to both the department and the sector that information is being shared in an authorised, transparent and lawful way.

Mary Wooldridge (Liberal)

The opposition will not be opposing this bill. We believe that some of the measures in the bill will seek to simplify some of the processes and offer opportunities to improve the way that the process works for people applying for public housing.

Another area of concern is that there is public housing stock that sits idle and unoccupied, and we need to make sure that public housing is fit for occupancy and that it is utilised. We have all heard stories from constituents in relation to public housing properties that are left vacant for an extended period of time and sometimes not kept particularly well, while many are waiting desperately on the list. So understanding why these houses or units or whatever they may be are unoccupied, how the work schedule is addressing any deficiencies they have and how we can more actively utilise our public housing stock for people who need it and turn it around quickly where improvements are made is very important.

Greg Barber (Greens)

The Greens will support this bill. We also support the creation of a centralised Victorian Housing Register for the benefit of those seeking affordable housing — something that we were also promoting as policy before the 2014 state election.

As a local councillor I went to a children’s play that was put on in Atherton Gardens, and it was about life in the public housing estate. The backdrop that they painted for their play was actually the lift in the public housing, and a large amount of what they talked about in their daily life was about problems with the lift. I think most of us take for granted the quality of our housing, but when you live in public housing, it is a daily struggle to get from the government just a decent standard.

Wendy Lovell (Liberal)

Whilst the bringing together of the public housing waiting list and the community housing waiting list is a great idea and will simplify applications for people, I am concerned about whether the most vulnerable will still get access to public housing. I had looked at combining these two housing waiting lists when I was housing minister, but the reality is that we have some extremely good housing associations that do house the most vulnerable, and we have some that do not.

I mention two of the extremely good ones. Yarra Community Housing, formerly under the leadership of CEO Rob Leslie and now under current CEO Michael Perusco, does a fantastic job of housing only the most vulnerable in our community — only those who would be category 1 on the current public housing waiting list.

Another one that does a fantastic job is Wintringham, under the leadership of Brian Lipmann, which is only taking those who are the most vulnerable — only the category 1 people from the public housing waiting list.

Others are not as good as these two organisations. I have to say that during my time as minister I was quite disappointed when I went to some of the openings for some of the community housing association projects.

At one, they were obviously trying to show me what was their model tenant. It was great that these people were getting access to subsidised housing. They were a single mother and her children, but they were a relatively comfortable family, not a family that was particularly struggling to make ends meet.

At the opening of that building, the chair of the board of that housing association offended everybody in the room when she said that public housing is often stigmatised by drug addicts and losers and that is what people think that public housing tenants are. She said, ‘But look around you here. You don’t see any drug addicts or losers here’. The audible gasp that went around the room showed that she had offended everybody. I went back to the department and said, ‘Well, these people obviously aren’t prepared to house the most vulnerable, and perhaps we should look at whether we continue to fund that particular housing association’.

At others I was confronted with tenants who were in relatively well-paid jobs and were obviously not the most needy of people on the public housing waiting list, who should have been getting access to government-subsidised housing. So I would like some assurances from the government that this bill will ensure that the most vulnerable get access to every government-subsidised housing property in this state — that whether that be a public housing property or a community housing property, the most vulnerable will continue to get access first to government-subsidised housing.

Fiona Patten (Sex Party)

Why has it taken us so long for such a commonsense response?

Of course this bill will not create more housing. We do not need the Australian Bureau of Statistics data to tell us that there has been an extraordinary spike in the lack of housing and in people experiencing homelessness in Victoria. That is abundantly clear just metres away from this building.

Committee Stage Extracts

Ms LOVELL (Liberal) — What percentage of new tenants will housing associations be required to take from segment 1 of the housing waiting list?

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I can advise the member that there are matters that are still in discussion with the sector, including the matter that the member has referred to.

Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) — Minister, I would have thought that that was something that would have been established before bringing this legislation to the house. It is a fairly serious concern about who actually gets access to public housing, whether it will be the most vulnerable or not. Therefore I ask: what percentage of the properties that are owned by housing associations will the housing association actually be required to take the most vulnerable tenants, the segment 1 tenants, into? Housing associations currently have a number of properties where they house people who do not even qualify for the public housing waiting list. What percentage of their properties will they be required to house the most vulnerable in?

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I understand the member has essentially asked the same question to what she asked before, but in a different way. I think I have actually addressed that matter.

Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) — Will there be houses owned by housing associations where they are not required to take people who would currently qualify for public housing as tenants? There are currently people who are housed in housing association properties who would not qualify to be on even segment 4 of the waiting list. Are they going to be allowed to continue to take those tenants into housing association properties?

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I did refer on Tuesday to issues around the ongoing consultations with the sector.

Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) — It seems that we are putting the cart before the horse here; we are introducing legislation for something about which there is very little known. This is a serious issue because this is about housing the most vulnerable people in Victoria. Minister, will tenants have the choice to nominate only to be housed in public housing, or will they have to take pot luck as to whether they get a public housing property or a housing association property when they register on the segmented waiting list?

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I am advised that there will be a choice for tenants.

Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) — Minister, can you tell us if there is any plan to align the rent for public housing and housing association properties?

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I am advised that there will be no change to the rental policy.