Tuesday, 23 November 2010
I recently attended the first Reality Sleepout organised by representatives of the Knox City Council’s Affordable Housing Reference Group and supported by Apex Australia. The aim of the night was to generate greater awareness of homelessness in the outer-eastern Melbourne suburbs, including in my electorate, and to meet with others campaigning to help our homeless population. It was a good opportunity to meet with some of the local and state-wide organisations working to support homeless people and hear first hand from those who have experienced very real and very long-term homelessness. The event gave me cause to reflect on some of the federal government’s recent housing initiatives, both in my electorate of La Trobe and nationwide, and on the job that is still at hand.
One of the excellent local initiatives in La Trobe which resulted from the federal government’s Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan is the development of 79 units of social housing in my suburb of Ferntree Gully in the La Trobe electorate. The site of the former Ferntree Gully Primary School is currently undergoing a transformation. It is not far from where I live and I have visually confirmed that the construction of the building is making a great deal of progress.
It was very disappointing to see the former member for La Trobe and the state member for Ferntree Gully each voicing their opposition to the project which will provide housing to people who face disadvantage in our community and which has supported jobs during a time of financial crisis. It is disappointing because they have offered no meaningful or constructive suggestions to tackle housing availability and affordability in our area.
Earlier in this adjournment debate we heard mention of wasteful spending. I must say that if spending on social housing to give people a roof over their heads and ensure that those people who construct those homes have jobs is wasteful spending, it is hard to understand what the opposition regards as worthwhile government spending.
Once the Ferntree Gully social housing project is complete it is intended that around 15 per cent of the housing will be allocated to families who are homeless or at high risk of homelessness, 50 per cent of the housing is intended to be made available for low-income families who are in need of public housing and the remaining 35 per cent of units are intended to be provided to low-wage earners.
This government’s Social Housing Initiative committed funding of over $5 billion over three and a half years for the construction of new social housing, and a further $400 million for repairs and maintenance to existing public housing units. In Ferntree Gully alone, the stimulus plan has enabled repairs and maintenance to 18 homes and the construction of the 79-unit social housing project on the corner of Dorset Road and Burwood Highway. Throughout the La Trobe electorate as a whole, this government’s stimulus package has supported 66 housing projects in total with an overall funding commitment of almost $19 million as at 2 November.
This has been just one of this government’s commitments to public housing, housing affordability and homelessness. Members will recall that the Australian government undertook a major review of homelessness in 2007 and launched the white paper on homelessness, The road home, in December 2008. It set ambitious and laudable targets to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020 and to offer supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it. The government also delivered a record investment of $10 billion to improve housing affordability and tackle homelessness.
In Victoria, the federal government and the state government have agreed on an implementation plan for the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which will provide approximately $155 million over four years for initiatives to tackle homelessness. The implementation plan is very much focused on prevention and early intervention. The funding is aimed at addressing youth homelessness, homelessness of families and children, and homelessness brought about as a result of family violence, amongst other things.
I will mention just a few of the measures that the funding will support: early intervention housing support for young people leaving care; family conciliation services tailored to young people; the establishment of at least one 24-hour youth refuge in each region; and 50 intensive psychosocial support packages for people with mental illness and psychiatric disability to improve social inclusion, in particular for those who are chronically homeless. The National Partnership Agreement also provides for a range of initiatives which aim to support those who are at risk of homelessness and those who are leaving institutional care.
Of course, there is much left to do to address homelessness and housing availability, but in its first term this government put in place strategies to achieve much in this area and has provided much needed social housing in La Trobe.