Jenny Leong Calls for Immediate and Significant Investment in Social Housing

Jenny Leong MP, NSW Greens spokesperson for Housing and Member for Newtown calling for a massive investment in public, social and affordable housing. In a wealthy State in a wealthy country such as ours no-one should be too poor to live.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (19:11): Keeping people in poverty is a choice, as is failing to maintain and provide housing that people can afford. This year has been very tough and, unlike 2020, reduced income support this year has meant that a large number of people have found themselves facing a global pandemic while also living in poverty and relying on the kindness of strangers to get them through. Food insecurity has been exacerbated and, as the Premier recognised in response to my question on Wednesday, community need has been met by charities and volunteers packing, delivering and helping thousands across the State with food hampers. That is unacceptable and an unsustainable response.

We know that Liberal governments like to privatise and outsource, but this Government has outsourced its responsibility to ensure that people have enough money to pay for their most basic need—food. Watching the compassion of individuals and organisations in my own electorate of Newtown and across the State stepping up to fill the gaps is heart warming. We cannot forget that they are doing this because of the failures of successive governments to address poverty and food insecurity issues. The next most basic need is shelter, which has also been neglected, and the current housing crisis is demonstrating how long and big this problem is.

Last weekend the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government made its big housing announcement as part of its road map to economic recovery. It was a media release that promised much, including the spend of $183 million, but in practice it will deliver very little. The funds for new housing, as opposed to existing plans, will deliver only an additional 400 new social housing dwellings and we have no time frame and no indication of exactly when or where these homes will be located. Compare that number with the 800 households currently living in temporary accommodation in motels and hotels around the State. How long will those households, subjected to living in temporary accommodation in motels and hotels, be in limbo before they can access social and affordable housing?

There are about 100,000 individuals on the public housing waiting list with simply no prospect of getting a home for years. The announcement last weekend was 400 new dwellings at some yet-to-be‑determined time and location in the future. Women are highly represented in the people accessing specialist homelessness services in New South Wales, with over 40 per cent having experienced domestic violence and urgently needing homes for themselves and their children. In comes the Liberal-Nationals Government this week to announce more refuges. Of course, any money for domestic violence services is welcome but, again, this commitment falls well short of what is needed to fund an overworked and under-resourced domestic violence sector.

Almost two-thirds of the jobs lost during the COVID-19 emergency in New South Wales were jobs held by women. Huge numbers of women are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness across the State, particularly older women. The housing crisis in this State can be solved, but not if we do not tackle it in a way that reflects the scale and size of the problem. This week the New South Wales housing Minister waxed lyrical in this place about everything the Government was doing in relation to housing. The Minister talked up $2 billion made by selling off public housing dwellings—seriously, boasting about making a profit from flogging off people's homes. The New South Wales housing Minister is responsible for the most outrageously under‑maintained housing in the State: public housing. The fact that the New South Wales Government has 100,000 social homes might sound good to announce in question time, but what about the size of the waiting list?

This number needs to be virtually doubled right now just to stay abreast of demand. Earlier this year in the Illawarra I spent time with people who are subjected to deplorable housing conditions. The maintenance debacle is not just an inner-city—Newtown, Redfern, Surry Hills—problem. The mould, the roaches, the rate infestations, the broken drains and the unkept common areas are issues across this State as a result of the failures of the New South Wales housing Minister to actually address this crisis. Our social housing system is in tatters due to a lack of resourcing. In a wealthy State in a wealthy country such as ours no-one should be too poor to live and no‑one should be subjected to the types of living conditions that this Government expects people to live in because of its failures to invest in public, social and affordable housing.

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