Jenny Leong speaks on who is responsible for the housing crises

 There is no denying that we are in an unprecedented housing crisis. From the inner cities to the regions, people are being forced to sleep in cars or tents, families are being priced out of their rental homes, and students and young people are languishing in overcrowded share houses. Each day a new horror story hits the headlines, and people are finally waking up to the reality that so many in our community, including The Greens, have been pointing out for years—the private housing system is broken. But it did not break overnight. Choices made by successive State and Federal governments on both sides of the aisle to prioritise the profits of their big developer and investor mates have contributed to the dire situation we face today, in Newtown and across New South Wales.

In the past fortnight, I welcomed the new Government beginning the process of progressing solutions. We welcome the audit of government-owned land that can be used for housing, and the freeze of public housing sales in recognition of the fact that selling off public housing in the midst of a housing crisis is not the answer. But we push back on the eagerness to rely on market solutions only to solve market problems. The Greens reject the ideas that institutional investors will radically improve the situation for renters, that high-rises are the silver bullet to the lack of affordable housing, and that building more private supply alone, without also boosting public housing, is a way out of this crisis.

We wholeheartedly reject any extension of the former Coalition Government's logic that the only way to increase public housing is by demolishing and privatising existing public housing and breaking apart the communities that call it home. Handing over any percentage of public land to a private developer is privatisation. No matter how one spins it, that is what it is. Most of all, we push back on the idea that the burden for tackling the housing crisis should fall anywhere other than on the Government. Whether it's nimbys, the migrants, the international students, international investors or the rich Chinese developers, every week we seem to hear that there is someone else to blame for the housing crisis.

Governments are responsible and they cannot continue to shift the blame. From flogging off public housing to private developers and transferring Land and Housing Corporation property to community housing providers, to touting private supply solutions like build to rent, the Government needs to stop outsourcing responsibility for addressing the housing crisis and start taking accountability. Hopefully, that is what we see from the Government. We want to combat the nimbys and address housing affordability in the meantime. Let us roll out inclusionary zoning and make it mandatory for all new private developments to have at least 30 per cent affordable housing as a condition of development consent.

If we want to address the massive shortage in public housing supply and the over 50,000 approved applicants on the public housing waiting list who are waiting for homes that do not exist, then we need to investigate sustainable solutions for boosting supply that do not require demolishing existing estates, and instead look at things like infill and refurbishing the 3,000-plus public housing dwellings that are sitting empty across the State. If we want to stop investors syphoning properties away from the long-term rental market and turning them into short-term letting, we need to empower councils to cap and regulate short-term rentals based on community need and rental vacancies, and implement an empty property tax on rentals to stop them being used in this way.

None of these solutions are new. They have all been rolled out in other jurisdictions and in other countries, where they have had a significant impact on bringing the housing situation back under control. The Greens want to see an end to the narrative, whether it is pedalled by the media or even in this Chamber by the planning Minister during question time, that the community opposing development or the former Government are solely to blame for the lack of housing affordability in this State. We want to bring the focus back here, to the future and to what we can do together in this place to work constructively to end the housing crisis that has been allowed to fester for too long. The change in government means we have an opportunity finally to act. But that means we need to put developers in their place, strengthen protections for renters and radically reimagine the housing market so that we are once again putting people before profit.

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