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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2150

Ms BURKE (ChisholmDeputy Speaker) (22:27): I rise to speak on the issue of social housing, which is of particular concern to me and my electorate of Chisholm, where housing prices are quite high and rents are going through the roof. I have two large universities in my electorate, so rents are pushed up by university students seeking accommodation.

It is often said that members in this place can expect to be judged by how we deliver for the most vulnerable within our community. Social housing is one of those areas where much can be done for vulnerable groups, particularly the ageing, those with disabilities, those who are disadvantaged or on low incomes and, tragically, Indigenous Australians.

The federal government is doing some great work in this space. In December last year I had the great pleasure to represent the Minister for Housing and Minister for Homelessness, Robert McClelland, at the opening of a social housing initiative project in Oxford Street, Oakleigh in my electorate. This is a terrific project and a great location. It was a great to be there to open this wonderful initiative.

The social housing initiative is part of a range of initiatives to expand social and affordable housing. It is the single largest investment in social housing ever undertaken by a federal government, and something we should rightly be proud of. Representing $5.6 billion in funding, this program will mean that around 19,000 homes will be built across the nation by 2012, with over 16,600 of them having already been completed. In Victoria, over 3,800 of the 4,600 new homes which the federal government has committed to funding have been completed, with the remaining projects expected to be delivered this year. This literally equates to thousands of homes for vulnerable people in Victoria. The program is being administered predominantly by the not-for-profit sector and has been designed to assist low-income Australians who are homeless or struggling in the private rental market. My electorate has benefited greatly from the Social Housing Initiative, with 131 new homes already built and all repairs and maintenance of 152 dwellings already completed. As I stated earlier, it is quite expensive to buy within my seat and many people wish to stay within the electorate because that is where their homes, their families and their connectivity are. The Oxford Street development is one of many which will help address the housing shortages. This newly completed complex has 48 apartments—33 one-bedroom and 15 two-bedroom units. These units incorporate six-star energy ratings and environmentally sound features such as underground rainwater tanks and gas-boosted solar hot water units.

The dwellings are fully tenanted by a diverse mix of tenants—43 of the units being managed by the Department of Human Services have been targeted towards predominantly older persons; four units provide transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness; and there is one unit for Indigenous Australians. The apartments provide a quality standard of living. These are genuinely very attractive units—this is not what was in my electorate originally, the old fibro home which no-one wanted to admit they lived in. This is not a ghetto environment like where you lived when I was growing up, in Jordanville; this is somewhere you are quite proud to say is your home. Numerous residents at the opening invited us into their new homes and were not only proud that they now had somewhere to call home but also proud of the standard of the facility. I want to particularly thank the builder, a local construction firm—Holden Peel Builders. One of the great things about this development is not only that we have left new homes but also that we created many jobs, and it was all down to a local firm with a local owner, one of our most involved local individuals, Mick Holden, who is very involved with the Oakleigh Amateur Football Club. He was incredibly proud of this development, and he put on several apprentices. It was an amazing win-win all around.

We need to contrast this with the Baillieu government's approach, which is now trying to claw back some of the benefits of this development. The Baillieu government has commenced notifying Victorian pensioners who are public housing tenants that their rent will be increased, therefore stripping away the increases to pensions introduced by the federal government. There was an agreement between the federal government and the states and territories that any pension increases would be quarantined from any rate rises. This protection is now being taken away by the Baillieu government.

Numerous local residents, such as members of the Ashburton, Ashwood and Chadstone Public Tenants Group, have expressed anger at these notifications, and rightly so. As one pensioner said to me, the increases were meant to assist them with their daily living costs, not to help the Victorian Liberal government. I call on the Baillieu government to reinstate the agreement to quarantine pension increases from public rent calculations and ensure a fair go for pensioners right across Australia. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: It being past 10.30 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 22:33