Speech on Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund Bill 2016

In Parliament | 12.10.16

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE ( 16:06): In speaking to the Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund Bill 2016, I note that the Labor Opposition will support the bill. It is easy for us to refer to funding mechanisms and the bricks and mortar when we talk about delivering more housing for people to live in. The Hon. Paul Green spoke of that in detail.

I will speak about the people who have come to our attention through reports and experience who are without a home, who are not able to buy a home or to live in a home. We know that there are tens of thousands of people sleeping rough. Tonight when we leave this building, many of us will walk past those people on our way home to our safe warm bed.

On the Central Coast churches have set up safe parking areas so that women and children can sleep in their cars because they have nowhere else to go. It is a worthwhile endeavour but it should not be happening.

There are kids in out-of-home care who when they turn 18 will leave foster care but have nowhere to go. The statistics tell us that many of them will be homeless, on the street or in jail within the first 12 months.

We know of people who reside in insecure housing because the rental laws are tilted towards landlords. In this State, even people who are working and paying their rent can be thrown out, through no fault of their own, and find themselves homeless.

People who lose their jobs are one pay packet away from homelessness. That is what is happening.

We know that the housing system in Australia is set up in a way that skews towards speculation and that that is part of the reason we see the ridiculous New South Wales house prices. If the Government is serious about housing people, if it believes that everyone has a right to shelter and that housing will allow people to thrive and fulfil their personal promise, then speculation has to be removed from housing. The market fails in this area. It does not deliver what is needed, that is, a roof over the head of every person in this State.

Failure to do that is leading to many other problems that none of us can deal with. People will be walking out of jail today who will have nowhere to go. They want to do the right thing but will find themselves with very few options and will probably be back in jail within six years. There are parents of children in mental health facilities who are very concerned that their children are about to be released but there is no secure housing or no safe place for them to live.

This bill is important but it is a drop in the ocean if we are serious about dealing with homelessness. If we seriously believe that everyone has a right to a home we have to take action. The market will not deliver it.

Housing affordability in New South Wales, in Sydney in particular, is worse than it has ever been. The response from this Government so far is not to talk about targets when talking about population growth of several million people over the next decade. It simply says it will build more houses and release more land and the market will deal with it.

The problem with that policy is that all it delivers is a hope that housing will become more affordable if the bubble bursts. That is the only solution to making things more affordable.

Public sector workers, hospitality workers, cleaners and others in this State are travelling hours and hours a day because they cannot afford to live near their place of work. I am aware of a childcare worker who is employed at a childcare centre that my children attended who travels from south of Wollongong every day to earn less than $40,000 a year. That is the only job she can get and she has to live with her parents because that is the only way she can afford to live.

Baby boomers all over town and those of us with teenage children know that our kids are not going anywhere soon. They will not have the opportunity that we did as young people to become adults by living out of home and being able to rent. They will be living with us for a very long time because they cannot afford even a deposit on a house.

I do not know how many ways we have to look at it to understand that the housing system in this country is failing. But we must recognise that fact.

If ever there were a case for government intervention, if we seriously believe everyone has a right to a home, then this is it.

This bill goes a very small way to dealing with this issue, but the matters that we face are far more significant.

As we walk out of this building tonight and see the people scrabbling around on a bit of cardboard hoping to find a place out of the wind and the rain let us think about it a bit more seriously.

HANSARD - NSW Legislative Council, 12 October 2016