Jenny Leong speaks on the state of public housing in NSW

Jenny Leong MP speaks on the state of public housing in the NSW Legislative Assembly, 19 May 2022. Add your support to the petition to the NSW Housing Minister to save public housing.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:39): By leave: I thank the member for Wallsend for raising this critical issue and for alerting us all to yet another issue relating to this Government's dysfunctional public housing system in this State. In May 2020 I asked the then Minister for Water, Property and Housing, the member for Oxley, who was just in the Chamber, some questions that are key to this debate. The first was:

(1)How many public housing dwellings were sold between 1 January 2020 and 21 May 2020?

(2)How many new public housing dwellings were completed in the period between 1 January and 21 May 2020?

The third question is directly related to this debate:

(3)How many public housing dwellings were vacant for more than one month as at April 2020?

The reply to the last question was:

(3)As at 27 April 2020, 225 re-lettable public housing dwellings had been vacant for more than 30 days.

(a)72 (of the 225 above) required significant maintenance.

Why, when we have a public housing waiting list of 50,000 applications, are we seeing this vacancy rate? Why were more than 70 of the houses uninhabitable? I am sure those figures are stitched up because we could all name multiple vacant dwellings throughout our electorates that have the same issue. During the same period 103 public housing dwellings were sold and a paltry number of 45 public housing dwellings were completed. We are losing our public housing stock. This issue does not exist only in the electorate of Newtown, which I represent, or the community of Wallsend, which the member who moved this motion represents, or the electorate of the member for Ballina, who is also in the Chamber. It is an also issue in the electorate of the member for Oxley, who was the housing Minister and oversaw this disastrous housing situation.

In Kempsey this year, a 16-year-old young woman who had been homeless on and off for most of her life was offered a home in a refurbished, flood-damaged cabin in a former derelict caravan park. The mid North Coast specialist youth homelessness service, YP Space, found the cabins in Port Macquarie and could afford to purchase them only because they were flood damaged. YP Space sold off most of its property assets to invest in a disused and derelict caravan park in the centre of town so it could provide some form of affordable housing for people aged between 16 and 25 who are experiencing homelessness.

When the former Minister was in the Chamber, she mentioned that there was a process. I can tell members that the process is broken. We have a serious problem because we have hundreds of homeless people sitting on a priority housing waiting list while we have $51 billion in public housing assets that we have somehow failed to leverage to deliver more public housing to help solve the housing crisis in the State. In the Newtown electorate, as elsewhere throughout New South Wales, NSW Land and Housing Corporation [LAHC] is selling off public housing at a great rate. If it has 100 per cent of public housing on a block, it privatises 70 per cent. It claims to be delivering more housing under the Communities Plus model, but what it delivers is more density, more gifts to its developer mates and no solution to the housing crisis. The surplus it gains from the sales is put into the private market, into the coffers of other interested developers, and we see no solution to the public housing crisis.

Our office has a list of people waiting to be housed or transferred. I am sure every member's office in this Chamber has a list. People need more habitable homes. They need safe and secure places to live. No words can describe the level of frustration and trauma that people have experienced in this Dickensian situation of public housing in this State. Family & Community Services and LAHC are outsourcing all their care and responsibility to 1800 telephone lines that people wait on for hours. We have a punitive and petty system that demonstrates that, when it comes to being a landlord in the State of New South Wales, this Liberal-Nationals Government is the worst.

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