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Homes Tasmania Bill 2022 (No 35)

Thursday 8 September 2022, Second reading speech

[3.11 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I thank all those who briefed us yesterday, both in favour of and opposing the bill. I appreciated the information provided by Centacare, Housing Choices, Housing Connect Partners, CatholicCare and Colony 47, and the difficulties that they face every day in being responsive to the needs of the people who walk through their door. I must admit, I have not always got on with them. When I have been on council, I have sometimes opposed their developments because of things like lack of infrastructure, lack of services - not because they are not in my back yard. Generally, we work it out. They might change, they might do a couple less, they might look at a larger block of land, but that is the beast that it is when you are working on behalf of the community. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you do not, and you are trying to negotiate and work together and get a good outcome. I appreciated them coming yesterday, and giving their view on this bill. I also appreciated the briefing from Sophie Underwood on behalf of the Planning Matters Alliance and the concerns they raised.

I noted the land development that has been mentioned with regard to Huntingfield and also Technopark in Launceston, and the housing land supply orders process, which incidentally, I did not support, and I did not believe that it should be taking so much out of council's involvement in the process. However, the bill got up, and I am pleased to see that with the development - and the Leader might correct me if I am wrong with this, I know particularly the one that is occurring in Launceston, and I would assume that Huntingfield is the same - that while 15 per cent of the blocks are for social housing, the rest is not just on the open market. 35 per cent is for the shared equity, or the housing market entry program, it might be called. So, 15 per cent for social housing, 35 per cent for the housing market for the people to make it a little bit easier for them to get into, and then the remaining 50 per cent on the open market. I see that as a good thing, because -

Mrs Hiscutt - Through you, Mr President. For clarity, are you talking about a particular subdivision?

Ms ARMITAGE - Yes, I have mentioned Huntingfield and Technopark in Launceston.

Mrs Hiscutt - Technopark.

Ms ARMITAGE - Yes. The one that came under that new bill that was passed. The housing land supply order process, which was Technopark. I am fairly sure that it was 15 per cent, 35 per cent, and then 50 per cent. To me, that at least avoids the old broadacre housing schemes and it is more integrated to have 50 per cent of the blocks on the open market. It certainly makes it a better area.

I am hopeful that this bill will alleviate some of the significant pressures that are facing Tasmanians right now in having access to safe, warm, and secure places to live. I hear the member for McIntyre's concerns with regard to boards and CEOs, but if I was to use an example of a board and a CEO, the one that I deal with the most is TasWater. I get a very good response from the CEO of TasWater. I have been to the board. I have an issue currently for a constituent. It is in the member for Windermere's electorate, on your side of the street, and I could hand it to you, but -

Mr Duigan - As long as you are getting an outcome.

Ms ARMITAGE - It is someone I know quite well. I have had a response not only from the chairman of the board, but several members of the board, and the CEO. All willing to do what they can to assist. I understand what the member for McIntyre is saying about boards and entities. However, if I use the example of TasWater and the previous CEO, Mike Brewster, out of every issue that I had, it would be fairly accurate if I said I had 95 per cent successful negotiations when working for a constituent. I am still meeting the new CEO. I do not see a problems with boards and CEOs, because I find them equally approachable, and certainly willing to work with you.

The establishment of Homes Tasmania as an authority to be responsible for delivering improved housing services and increasing the supply of affordable homes fulfils a dire need that exists in the community. Families are sleeping rough and couchsurfing. Recently, I had communication with a young girl. She was 14. I have mentioned in this place before that I work with Tasmania Police in the role of Independent Person. This 14-year-old girl had been brought to the police station because she had been stealing. The police said to me, 'we have not seen her before, we do not really know her. Why did she hit the radar now?'

When I was talking to her, she said she was homeless. This 14-year-old girl was sharing a car or a couch with another 14-year-old girl and her mother. The mother and the other girl, slept between their car and whoever's couch they could find to sleep on. The reason this girl had started stealing was because she simply did not have any money. She was waiting for money to come through, working with social services, or whatever they happen to be called now, to try to get some income. She went to a special school, and by 'special' I mean a school for people who disengage with normal school. Apart from that, she said she hung out with her friends and had no money. She stole in order to eat and to do other things and to get clothes.

There are people like that - a 14-year-old girl, and her 14-year-old friend, and the girl's mother. How awful is it that they have nowhere to live? To me, rental and purchase prices are out of control, and becoming even harder to manage with interest rates continuing to rise. People are resigning themselves to a reality where they do not have access to stable, affordable housing. I am sure no-one here would believe that is an acceptable outcome. I agree that it is time to do something differently, to tackle the issue of housing in Tasmania.

While Homes Tasmania establishes yet another board, as long as the people who are on the skills-based board represent the geographical interests of regional Tasmania, then I support it. I do have issues with boards. It is no secret in this place that I constantly ask the questions of board membership, but my main gripe is the fact that so many board members are from the mainland, or the south, and the north and the north-west seem to get overlooked. We all live in Tasmania, and I believe we all have a place on those boards.

That is my concern, rather than a concern about yet another board. I do not necessarily like another board, but what we are doing at the moment is not working. So, if a board helps the situation, then I am prepared to look to it. What we have been doing so far to address the issue of reasonable and affordable housing in Tasmania has not been meeting the significant demand. I see merit in trying something different. As has been mentioned in the other place, many people have been financially squeezed out of the private housing market, but do not qualify for social housing - an already oversubscribed service, in any case. They lose the opportunity to build a life that provides enough certainty to raise a family, pursue a meaningful career, and fully participate in their community lives.

Last week, The Examiner reported that Launceston's economy is losing more than $200 million a year as employers struggle to attract staff due to low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rents. The Launceston Chamber of Commerce highlighted that hospitality, tourism, health and community services - all vital for the region's wellbeing and economic stability - were sectors particularly affected by the shortage. People are unable to bring families with them from the mainland or overseas, and people who are already living here are struggling to build a stable, happy family life.

The Government's plan to invest $1.5 billion to build 10 000 homes by 2032 is indeed very ambitious. However, I choose to remain optimistic in the hope that it can be done and that Tasmanians will be able to access safe, affordable and stable homes. However, Tasmanians also need to be listened to, and their interests need to be looked after. The Ministerial Reference Group on housing and homelessness, as the Leader mentioned in the second reading speech, is a further important step towards ensuring that all Tasmanians have somewhere safe, stable and affordable to live, not just for the immediate or medium-term, but over time so people can build their lives, their families and meaningful careers.

A number of questions have been raised about how Homes Tasmania will work more specifically and how they will help to deliver eased conditions for housing and homelessness and I look forward to the Leader's reply.

How will the Homes Tasmania board be comprised? As I mentioned, I want to see more Tasmanians on Tasmanian boards. We put vast levels of resourcing into selecting board members, some of our public corporations and GBEs, and I want to make sure this board will actually be representing regional interests. I am interested to hear more about that from the Leader.

On a similar note, I want to understand how the organisation itself will ensure that more homes and housing assistance is going to be delivered, and how quickly. I am aware a statement of ministerial expectations will set the direction of the organisation and the board. However, I would like to know if this will be backed up with any key performance indicators or other benchmarks to assess the effectiveness of the organisation and the performance of the board.

I know that I am not the only member in this place who has received constituent inquiries about housing and social support for families. It is absolutely tragic, some of the situations I know other members have dealt with and which I have dealt with myself. Not only is there tremendous strain on many Tasmanian families who are dealing with housing insecurity, but also on social services who work with these people on the ground.

We would all want more houses to be constructed and delivered in a timely way. While this bill shifts management of social housing out of government to a statutory authority, I hope this results in a more agile, flexible and responsive delivery of more social housing options.

We want fewer barriers to constructing more housing, not more. I am listening to what the Leader and other members in this place have to say on the bill, on Homes Tasmania on how this will actually be achieved and I will support any measures than responsibly make this happen. I have been listening intently and will continue to listen, but currently, I am leaning towards supporting this bill as it upsets me terribly to know people are sleeping out in the cold or in their cars or cramped up in a friend's living room or shed.

It is not what we should expect in a developed place like this. Housing insecurity permeates every other facet of a person's life and I sincerely hope this bill will make strides toward ameliorating the insecurity that many Tasmanians are currently facing with housing.

[5.10 p.m.]

Mr PRESIDENT - The question is that the bill be now read the second time.

The Council divided -


Ms Armitage Ms Lovell

Mr Duigan Ms Rattray (Teller)

Ms Forrest Mr Valentine

Mr Gaffney (Teller) Ms Webb

Mr Harriss Mr Willie

Mrs Hiscutt

Ms Howlett

Ms Palmer


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