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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2534


Mr BRADBURY (3:05 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Housing and the Status of Women. Will the minister explain to the House what this week’s ABS housing finance data tells us about the impact of the Economic Security Strategy and how the government is supporting the housing industry for the long term?


Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) —I want to thank the member for Lindsay for his question. Yesterday’s housing finance data shows that first home buyers are playing a very big role in the housing market these days. First home buyers now make up 26½ per cent of new home buyers. In fact, since October last year loans to first home buyers have averaged more than 12,100 a month compared with an average of around 9,000 a month before the introduction of the first home owners boost through the Economic Security Strategy. That is a 30 per cent increase that can be attributed directly to government action in introducing the first home owners boost and, of course, lower interest rates. That is obviously having a very significant effect across Australia.

I am happy to report to members that the member for Lindsay has told me that in his electorate there has been a 175 per cent increase in sales at the Ropes Crossing development. From May to October, first home buyers accounted for just 13 per cent of sales in that development. But from October to February first home buyers have accounted for more than half—55 per cent—of buyers in that new development. Lend Lease, the developer of the estate, have put on 36 extra full-time employees to deal with that extra demand. The member for Lindsay has also told me that Ralph Saporito of Glenmore Park Realty told him that home sales have picked up 20 per cent in his local area since the announcement, that that is mostly made up of first home buyers and that houses that are going onto the market in the member for Lindsay’s electorate that are worth less than $400,000 a year are selling within days of going onto the market.

The government’s housing response to the global financial crisis has been in two parts. The first part, through the Economic Security Strategy, is the first home owners boost, which is helping young people into the housing market. The second part, through the Nation Building and Jobs Plan, sees direct investment in Defence housing and in social housing over the next couple of years. Indeed, last week I announced the allocation of $400 million for repairs and maintenance of public and community housing. This $400 million, as members will remember, was originally designed to bring up to 2½ thousand homes back into the public housing pool, homes that were either uninhabitable now or that would shortly be because of their very poor condition. The great news is that the states and territories have come back and told us that, instead of being able to fix 2½ thousand homes, they can fix more than 10,000 with this new money. A total of 10,648 homes will be saved from becoming uninhabitable and will be returned to the pool of public housing. New bathrooms, new kitchens, rewiring, plumbing, retiling, new driveways—all of that new work—will extend the lives of many of these homes by 15 to 20 years. On top of the almost 11,000 homes that will be returned to the pool of public housing, another 38,000 homes will have work done to them. So almost 50,000 homes right round Australia will have work done by electricians, plumbers, tilers and carpenters. All of the work done by tradies and their apprentices, as well as all of the materials that are needed to do that work, will have obvious economic stimulus effects right across Australia.

There is another stage to our work in housing: new construction under the Nation Building and Jobs Plan. We are looking at 2,300 homes in projects that the states and territories have had in the pipeline—on the drawing board, with plans drawn up and council approval—but have not had the money for. Those properties will go ahead as the next stage. Beyond that is the third stage: $5.3 billion of new investment to build new homes. Tradespeople right across the country will be building those homes. What is even better is that much of this building will happen in cooperation with private developers. A lot of these private developers in ordinary times would not be working with state departments of housing. In these times, when it is so difficult to get financing for major construction activity, the fact that state housing departments will contract with these developers for presales in their developments means that many developments will actually go ahead when they might not otherwise have been able to proceed.

Yesterday I received the first state of supply report from my National Housing Supply Council. It reminds us that Australia is still undersupplied with housing. After 10 years of neglect from those opposite, we are still short of housing. It is going to take all of our efforts to make sure that we keep those tradespeople and apprentices in the building sector so that when the global financial crisis eases and access to finance is easier they can kick off their work at a higher rate once again. Our efforts will support continued building through this global financial crisis. They will support employment for tradies and apprentices right around Australia. Of course, our efforts will also put roofs over the heads of some of our most vulnerable Australians, including homeless Australians, who we are determined to assist.