Motion - Big Housing Build

02 August 2023

Martha HAYLETT (Ripon) (12:26):

I rise today to speak on the motion moved by the Minister for Housing, and what a great motion it is – 7600 homes completed or underway since just November 2020, with Victoria on track to deliver over 12,000 much-needed social and affordable homes. And we have also, just in the last few weeks, announced a $1 billion Regional Housing Fund, which will deliver more than 1300 additional homes.

Now, this is an issue extremely dear to my heart. Housing is the reason I am here today. My passion for housing runs deep; it runs through my veins. As soon as you get a passion for housing, you cannot shake it. I know how far we have come as a movement in just the last five years because I have been there the whole journey. As the head of policy at the peak body for public housing tenants back in 2018 I remember meeting with members of Parliament, including the member for Brunswick when he was the Greens candidate for Brunswick. I met with ministers, union officials, public housing tenants and over 20 not-for-profit organisations, building the case for more public housing to address our housing crisis. I sat in the homes of public housing tenants who told me the roof over their head was the only reason that they were alive – tenants like Cherie, who said moving into public housing was the key to her recovery after years of torture and abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, and tenants like Chris, who worked part time as a truckie and could not believe it when he got the call that he was moving into public housing after sleeping rough in a tent for seven years. He said he could barely even understand how to be in four walls after being in the forest in the Dandenongs for seven years. There are tenants like Natalia, who had been in nine different foster homes and lived on the streets before getting into public housing and who told me, ‘Having a home gives you a chance to start living again. Now I am like a butterfly.’ It is these stories that kept me fighting for change.

I met with the Greens, with the Liberals – not many of them would meet, surprise, surprise – and independents. I remember presenting to the Labor faithful at a conference about the dire need for more social and affordable housing the day my nephew Eamon was born, so a little bit over four years ago now. I remember the pride I felt when the former Minister for Housing Richard Wynne committed to building 1000 new public housing units before the 2018 election and when I helped establish a movement of over 1000 Victorian Labor Party members who are fighting internally for more housing action as we speak, and they have done massive amounts of work to date. It made me think of the advice that my mother gave me that you should never throw stones from the outside – you should be in it to change it. That is exactly what we are doing on this side of the house. That is why I am so proud to be a part of a government that listens, that cares and that is delivering tens of thousands of new social and affordable housing properties across the state.

Our $5.3 billion Big Housing Build is changing lives, and it has already delivered so many homes. Now, we need to reflect on the number. The member for Brunswick says, ‘Oh, it’s a small amount. It’s just over 12,000 – that’s insignificant.’ This is not just bricks and mortar. It is 7600 families that now have a permanent, safe, affordable place to call home. It will not just be for them, it will be for the generations that benefit from that roof over their head. It cannot be understated and cannot be considered just an insignificant amount by those opposite. There is $1 billion – I was so, so proud to see this a few weeks ago – to deliver an extra 1300 new social and affordable homes in rural and regional areas.

This is a game changer for our rural and regional communities across the Ripon electorate and will benefit so many more across the state. It will mean that we can build the much-needed key worker housing our industries have been calling out for. It will mean that we can address the chronic housing supply issues and rental stress so many are experiencing. I cannot go anywhere in Ripon – and many members in this chamber are in the same position – without the issue of housing coming up. In Carisbrook the principal of the primary school told me that there are several students who have been sleeping in tents around Maryborough for several years now. Around Lake Burrumbeet just outside of Ballarat and Green Hill Lake outside Ararat, dozens of people are sleeping rough. In Wedderburn kids are living in shipping containers. In St Arnaud the late, great former mayor Tony Driscoll told me that there are no affordable homes to house prospective workers and shearers during peak season. In Beaufort the Country Women’s Association are calling for affordable housing to be built for older women at risk of homelessness, and in Maryborough developers are ready to build more social and affordable housing in partnership with community housing associations.

Having this extra $1 billion will be able to address so many of these issues, and it will go such a long way – a billion dollars is a huge amount in regional and rural areas. It is often said that 10 homes in Ararat are like 100 in Werribee. It is a really significant amount to have that $1 billion up our sleeve. It will also create jobs and economic opportunities for our region. It will help victim-survivors of family violence. It will help people living with disability, those with mental illness and locals who can no longer afford rising rents. Homelessness organisations, unions, peak bodies and even the master builders are praising us for our action on housing. They all know that we are not just providing a home to families but are also putting downward pressure on overall rental prices in the private market and improving housing affordability.

We have partnered with the Albanese federal Labor government to get this work done, and all the while the Greens political party are blocking and stalling and opposing and wrecking progress. In Canberra they are abstaining from the vote on the federal government’s Housing Australia Future Fund and effectively stopping vulnerable people from getting a roof over their heads. They are making housing affordability worse, and they are grandstanding and talking a big game but never delivering a single thing. While they protest and lecture us, we are getting on with actually delivering tangible outcomes for Victorians in need. We are building more refuges, we are building more transitional housing, we are creating more affordable rental schemes, we are boosting funds for homelessness support, we are strengthening tenants’ rights and we are building permanent secure housing where it is needed most. I would much rather be on this side of the chamber actually getting on with it rather than throwing stones from the outside like those opposite. They had the opportunity, and they never did anything with it to deliver on housing for those in need.

I want to thank the Minister for Housing for all his hard work in delivering more affordable homes, and I also want to thank the incredible staff at Homes Victoria and in the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, who are deeply committed to ending homelessness and building more affordable homes across our state. I had the pleasure of working with many of these people before entering this place, and I know how tirelessly they are working every single day to get this job done. Now, our work is not done. We will be the first to admit that, and that is why our government is working hard on a housing package to be announced in coming months. In Ripon there is a long way to go in addressing our housing shortage and levels of housing stress. We have delivered 150 brand new homes in Ballarat, including nine in Mitchell Park. We are building nine more, as we speak, in Ararat, and we are building 30 more in Mitchell Park next year. I know the member for Wendouree is just as excited as I am about the amount of housing that we are building in Ballarat. This has already changed lives, with more great things to come.

I will continue to advocate for more social and affordable housing for my community, and I know that our government will work hard to address this pressing issue, unlike those opposite, who will just continue to whinge and complain. There is no more important issue anywhere in the state than housing, and that is why we are not wasting a minute in changing and saving lives so that more people can have the dignity, the respect and the comfort that comes with a secure place to call home.