Regional Housing

24th November 2021

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (17:41): By leave: I thank all members in the Chamber who are contributing to this very important debate. I note the contribution of the Minister, and member for Tamworth. He has very appropriately agreed that this is a housing emergency. Members are not really debating that; everybody in this Chamber knows that there is a real problem out there. If I wanted to be pedantic, I would take it a step beyond an emergency and call it a "housing crisis". It is not confined to regional New South Wales, but I appreciate the member for Ballina bringing the issue to the attention of the House. The majority of members of this House are from the regions and we are really feeling this stress.

I also acknowledge the member for Dubbo and his amendment. I do not have any particular problem with it. However, I do not want the emergency that has been spoken about in this debate by the members representing the electorates of Ballina, Newtown, Lismore and Murray to be in any way reduced or diminished by the fact that the Government has moved an alternative motion. The member for Albury made reference to the inquiry of the Public Accounts Committee, whose report was the subject of a take-note debate earlier today. I am sure the report makes fabulous reading for many people, including the many members who have been raising issues on behalf of their constituents for a long time. The member for Newtown referred to issues about blocked sewers and black mould, which goes with leakage from roofs, the stormwater system, plumbing and things like that.

It is really a crisis out there, and I believe Land and Housing Corporation knows that. I am sure the member for Albury would agree that there was not a lot of pushback about that from its representatives at the inquiry. The corporation is really working hard, and I do not want to diminish the work being done in the public area to try to address those issues. However, the members who were on that inquiry know the housing stock is in really bad shape. We do need to address this. In a lot of cases it is not just a lick of paint and some new carpet. These houses are not fit for purpose, if that purpose is to give people dignity and the confidence to raise their children in them. The amount of money that is going back into that space, particularly in maintenance, is so limited. It is limited to the income that comes from tenancy rental, but we know that the people who live in those tenancies are lower-income families, so it is a real conundrum. But the even bigger issue is that our communities are under huge pressure. Members have spoken about the problems that young families and others have had trying to find a rental property. Housing availability in Lake Macquarie would be a fraction percentage point—I am not sure what it is but it is extremely low. It is heartbreaking that mums and dads cannot find a suitable home for their family. In the take-note debate today I mentioned that if housing maintenance was addressed then perhaps we could get more people into existing stock, but that is not the solution. We need more housing stock.

In my view the crisis cannot be addressed by the New South Wales Government alone; it requires the whole of government, including local government. If we find spaces for more homes, and there are not many brownfield sites that can accommodate our needs, the real problem is that our local communities do not want additional housing. They do not want the increased densities and they do not want greenfield development either. The local government and the State Government are caught in a conundrum. Another problem is that there is not enough funding for the public housing stock that is needed. The State Government must work with the Commonwealth. If we want to rebuild after COVID and if we want to build jobs and skills for the future, there is no better investment than in affordable housing right across Australia. But we are talking about New South Wales, and I call on the State Government to do all it can to work collaboratively to make that happen.

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