Thursday, 21 March 2024


Barwon public housing


Barwon public housing

Sarah MANSFIELD (Western Victoria) (17:57): (811) The action I am seeking from the Minister for Housing is to take urgent action to increase the supply of public housing across the Barwon region. At the latest count there were 7101 households – not individuals, entire households – on the priority waitlist in the Barwon region. These households cannot afford to sign a lease at a private rental or to pay so-called affordable rent and are being forced to make unimaginable trade-offs. They should have access to the protection and stability that public housing provides, but they do not.

The impacts of insecure housing across a lifespan and across generations cannot be overstated. The number of women without a stable place to live is on the rise. In the five years from 2016 to 2021 there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of women experiencing homelessness, compared to a 2 per cent increase in the number of men. Single mothers with children represent a significant portion of households on the waiting list, while women over 55 represent the fastest growing demographic experiencing homelessness. Forty per cent of those seeking housing assistance in the region cited family and domestic violence as the cause. Children who grow up without secure housing are more likely to enter homelessness as teens, and the rates of youth homelessness are staggering: 38 per cent of those experiencing homelessness last census were under 25.

This level of homelessness and housing insecurity would not be occurring if successive state and federal governments had maintained an adequate supply of public housing. In 1956, 22 per cent of new housing in Australia was public housing; now it is less than 2 per cent. Yet how is the Labor government responding in the Barwon region – public land is being sold off to private developers to build market housing. The Commonwealth Games village site, on public land, which this government was all too keen to promote as a salve to the region’s housing woes, will have apparently 400 dwellings built on it. Just 72 of these, 18 per cent, are earmarked for social and affordable housing, and most low-income households cannot actually afford so-called affordable housing. Even if they could, these 72 properties would barely touch the sides of the 7000-plus waiting list.

In 2020 the City of Greater Geelong estimated 675 properties per year for the next 10 years were needed to meet the current demand. Labor continues to hold to the blind belief, based on outdated and flawed economic arguments, that the market will somehow provide for low-income households’ demand for housing. It will not, and the proof lies everywhere around us. The market has failed emphatically, and the need for government intervention could not be clearer. We urgently need a massive increase in the supply of genuine public housing.