Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
Thank you to the member for Higgins for bringing this motion to the House. It's great to hear this afternoon that the HAFF Bill will now pass with the support of the Greens and the crossbench, securing an additional $1 billion overall in direct funding for public and community housing. It will certainly kickstart the process and enable more affordable housing to be built. This is welcome news, especially in electorates with high social and affordable housing needs such as Fowler. But we will see how fast construction will begin from this.
I grew up in public housing, and I can't stress enough the importance of having a roof over our heads when we first arrived in Australia. It helped my late mother tremendously to know we had a temporary place to call home while she was working out how to raise her three daughters and acclimatise to the new country. This public housing was a stepping stone for my late mother, and from that we were able to slowly rebuild our lives. Today, my sister and I can proudly say we have worked hard to contribute back to Australia, and we are in a position to pay for our own homes. But, as we know, it is becoming harder and harder to own a home in today's economic climate. We have seen 13 interest rates rises in 15 months. We are yet to see the ramifications of that on families who are now struggling to pay for their mortgage, electricity bills, car and house insurance and groceries.
Housing availability and affordability are at an all-time low. The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics put the cost of building a house at nearly $450,000 in February this year. The same house cost just over $300,000 to build in February 2021. That's a massive increase of more than $130,000 in just two years. When speaking to business owners and ordinary people in Fowler, they're telling me everything has gone up since COVID. In a country where most of us have been raised to believe that, if we worked hard, we could one day own our own quarter-acre block in the suburbs, it's just a pipe dream.
My electorate has the fourth-worst rental affordability in Australia, where 45 per cent of families spent more than 30 per cent of household income on rent. We also have the fourth-worst mortgage affordability in Australia. Nearly 25 per cent of our households spent more than 30 per cent of their household income on repayments. While I acknowledge the housing crisis impacts every Australian, regardless of their background and postcode, I want to highlight a devastating effect of this housing crisis on people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
In my electorate of Fowler, 42 per cent of the community are renting. I learned recently, during a school visit, of a family being thrown out of their rental accommodation who were looking for emergency accommodation. We need to provide greater rental assistance so that families don't end up in streets. There's a huge waiting list of approximately 175,000 people wanting to access social and affordable housing. That's a large number which could mean up to a 10 year waiting period, or longer. I know for a fact that, in my electorate of Fowler, the high cost of housing forces low-income families to sometimes make difficult choices between housing, renting, food and health care.
But housing development goes beyond just funding. No matter how much money you throw at the problem, you will not fix it. We need to address the construction costs—which, as I said, have gone up—workforce shortages, bureaucratic red tape for DA and planning approvals across local governments. We need to make sure these different levels of government work together to ensure a faster process to get property development happening. Therefore it's imperative that we work together. We must engage every level of the community to promote better housing outcomes.
There's so much more that needs to be done, starting with a commitment to increase a real and sustainable investment in social and affordable housing, by working with community housing providers, developers, investors and the building industry. Social housing and affordable housing is critical, especially for families in migrant and refugee communities, and, as the member for Indi said, for regional communities as well. We need to ensure that there is targeted funding so that these communities can have a starting point for people such as my family and my mother.