Jenny Leong MP on Housing as a Human Right

Jenny Leong MP, Member for Newtown put a motion calling on the Government to treat housing as a Human Right, not as an avenue for profit. The Liberal Government needs to take responsibility for providing safe, secure, habitable and affordable housing for residents of NSW.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (13:27): I move:

That this House:

(1)Recognises that housing is a human right.

(2)Recognises that it is the Government's role to ensure that all people in New South Wales have access to safe, secure, habitable and affordable housing.

(3)Commits to addressing legislative and policy barriers which prevent people from enjoying this right.

I am pleased to speak on behalf of the many people in New South Wales who find themselves without a place to call home, who live with rental stress or are unable even to consider the prospect of affording their own home. The Greens vision on housing starts with a simple and fundamental belief that housing is a human right. That is a basic concept that I hope everybody in this Chamber supports. Unfortunately, successive State and Federal governments have made decisions that have treated housing not as a right but as a commodity to be bought and sold for profit and subject to the fluctuations of the market—and with profit and return on investment as the priority rather than the need to provide a safe and secure place for someone to live.

We have all been placed in a pitiful state where hundreds of thousands of people find themselves as pawns to a commodity market that determines whether they will have a roof over their heads and whether they will be have to spend significant amounts of their income on rent. The budget has a $3.9 billion surplus at a time when we have a growing crisis in homelessness and housing affordability. I am pleased to acknowledge the work of my colleague Justin Field, who has put forward the proposition that we need to start a wellbeing index.

Such an index would measure the health of our State and not only its finances. It is meaningless to make homelessness a priority if we do not invest in the affordable housing measures we need. The Greens believe people have the right to a roof over their head. Like education and healthcare, it is not a privilege and it is not an optional extra.

I ask members to imagine public schools that charge hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, which would mean that some children would not be able to get an education. Imagine having to present a credit card to pay the up‑front cost of treatment for a heart attack. Imagine all of our schools being full and children having to wait to attend just as people must now wait for 10 years to access public housing. We would see 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds not being schooled or starting school as teenagers. We would not tolerate that situation if it were to occur in the health or education sectors, and we should make a commitment not to tolerate it in the public housing sector. Something has gone desperately wrong if we do not address this crisis.

South Australia has done better with the delivery of affordable housing. Everyone says that there is no silver bullet for the housing crisis. There may not one simple solution, but there are numerous obvious solutions. We have the ability to deliver more investment in social and public housing to address the waiting list and the backlog. We could introduce a housing-first plan to reduce homelessness in this State. We could set mandatory targets for inclusionary zoning to deliver affordable housing as part of all new developments in New South Wales. A cost-free measure could be introduced immediately to reduce housing stress for 30 per cent of the New South Wales population.

We can also put an end to no-grounds evictions for renters so that dodgy landlords cannot kick them out. With so many cranes in the sky and so many new apartments springing up all around us, it is wrong that we can walk down King Street, Crown Street, Martin Place or in a local park and still see people sleeping rough. It is clear that new developments are not addressing the homeless crisis. We must take an approach that does not see housing only as a profit-making exercise; first and foremost, it must be about giving people a warm place to call home.

This is not exclusively a city problem. Parramatta, Gosford and regional towns across New South Wales are also experiencing the housing crisis. We in this Chamber could solve this problem now. There might be resistance and big corporates and those with vested interests in the property market might reject the notion of housing being a fundamental right. However, we must declare today that housing is a right that governments must be responsible for delivering. We must recognise that when it is cold and raining it is not okay for anyone to be sleeping on a park bench. It is not okay for us to accept that as an inevitable reality.

As I said, housing is a human right. We must radically switch our agenda and priorities and say that we want a commitment to the idea of housing as a basic right. The Government must adopt a policy of delivering housing for everyone who needs it in New South Wales. Like The Greens, this Government must recognise that there are solutions. There might not be one simple solution, but there are solutions. It will take courage, commitment, determination and passion to solve this crisis. If we are committed to finding solutions and if we recognise that housing is a human right, we will continue to push in the right direction. If we are committed, we will ensure that people are not sleeping rough and that they are not living under housing stress. If we are committed, we will address the fundamental human right of every citizen of this State to have a safe, habitable, affordable and secure home.

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