12 November 2021

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (17:32): Via video link: I speak about the housing crisis. Tonight in the Blue Mountains there will be members of my community—single mothers and their children, young men, teenagers and older women—who do not have a safe place to sleep or, if they do manage to end up on the couch of a friend, will be there for a couple of days only and then they will be again in a desperate search for secure, affordable housing. This search for shelter—a basic human right—should not be the nightmare it has become, a search that leaves people feeling traumatised and hopeless because of limited options with prices that are out of reach.

My electorate, like most of the State, is experiencing a prolonged critical housing crisis. It is an emergency that needs an urgent and dedicated whole-of-government response. Every week my office hears tragic stories from individuals and families being notified out of the blue that their lease is up. They have received no-grounds termination notices for homes they may have lived in for over a decade. The search for another home in the same neighbourhood at a similar price is futile. Local rates have skyrocketed due to limited supply as landlords cash in on record house prices or the lure of short-term holiday income rental. This means that families have been forced to leave communities they love, where they have settled and put down roots. They are withdrawing their children from schools, leaving friends and family, and moving to other towns that might be more affordable. Others move into overcrowded share accommodation, backyard caravans, tents and bush campsites or they live in their car, kids in tow.

None of this is new, as members know. We have been dealing with these issues in our electorate for years, but the housing crisis that has emerged on this Government's watch is getting worse by the day. It is a crisis that our public housing system is not coping with. There are more than 50,000 people on the public housing waiting list. Almost 10,000 of those with priority needs are women and children escaping domestic violence and elderly women at risk of homelessness. The sector is saying that our State will need 5,000 new homes every year for the next decade to keep pace with demand. A couple of days ago the Government released the long-awaited recommendations of the Regional Housing Taskforce. The task force report confirmed what we already know: Housing and rental affordability in regional New South Wales is a profound problem and action is needed immediately. Urgent action was needed years ago.

The report makes clear that land is available and the Government just needs to use it. One way to use available land to ease housing stress is currently being investigated by Parliament's Committee on Community Services, of which I am a member. Our inquiry is hearing about options to better support meanwhile use, land for temporary supportive accommodation, as well as the current planning barriers to use "meanwhile use" land and property. I am proud to report that an innovative proposal for meanwhile use has come out of my Blue Mountains electorate. The Blue Mountains Rotary clubs have put together a solid proposal, which is supported by the relevant departments, that will see tiny homes built on vacant sites close to facilities and support services. This project has the potential to transform the lives of people at risk of homelessness. Rotary volunteers have liaised with social housing providers and the local council and raised funds to kickstart the project.

It is an excellent example of how the community and government can work together to reduce homelessness. But for this project and others like it to go ahead we need the Government to play its part, cut red tape and introduce planning instruments to encourage an increased uptake of meanwhile use for temporary and transitional housing. I am aware that temporary accommodation, supported or not, is just that—temporary. Significant investment and long-term, permanent, social and affordable housing is required. The Government's failure to invest in new social housing has resulted in today's crisis. I urge the Government to take action on the recommendations of the Regional Housing Taskforce and not leave the report to gather dust. Too many people require government to take urgent and serious action to increase housing supply in our regions. Do it now.