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Thursday, 18 March 2021
Page: 2796

Mr CONAGHAN (Cowper) (16:13): We've all seen the recent media reports, and the current housing crisis in Australia is very concerning. Much of that coverage is about the extraordinarily high returns currently being experienced at property sales and property auctions. But, in my electorate, up in Coffs Harbour there was almost an auction for a rental. There were 148 applications for a three-bedroom home—to rent. We've never seen it before. The housing squeeze is not just a city-centric issue; it's now become a regional issue, one for all of us.

In my electorate, COVID-19 has changed the face of housing in a short period of time—in 12 months. People were able to work from home. What we're seeing is people who had invested wisely in the beautiful locations around my electorate realising that they can do that from my electorate, rather than living in Melbourne or Sydney or elsewhere. So they're moving back, taking up those properties, and the people who had rented them for five, 10 or 15 years can't find anywhere. I had a teacher on the telephone the other day saying: 'Pat, I've been in this house for nine years. I've got six kids. Now I've got four weeks to find somewhere, and I can't find anywhere.' Fortunately, we worked together and we did find something, and that person was very grateful, but that person is not alone.

I note the comments by the previous speaker about women over the age of 55. They are the highest represented people for homelessness in terms of domestic violence, particularly in Bellingen, in my electorate. I've been trying to work with the Bellingen council and other councils on this issue. It's a very, very real issue, and it's a very live issue. Yes, it is a state issue, but we can't say it's a state issue. We have to work together, we've got to take it all on board, and we have to meet with our state counterparts and our local council counterparts and say, 'What's the plan?' That's because the plan will be different for Coffs Harbour. The plan will be different for Bellingen. The plan will be different for Port Macquarie. We have to have a plan. We have to work towards that plan. Without one, you will have people living in cars.

I was in Kempsey the other day. I pulled up in a car park. There were three cars, and people were living in those cars. In one of them was a family. We can't just say it's a state issue. We can't just say it's a state responsibility. We've got to work together. There are a number of really innovative ideas that we can work with. We've got to look outside the box.

I recently met with the owner of Buildonix. He can put a house together—a one-bedroom, one-bathroom house—in three days. He was a recipient of a federal government grant. That's good work from the federal government in thinking outside the box. It's build and click, and it was a beautiful home. He can put that together in three days. There's not that cost of the delay in building, there's not the cost of the three-month or the six-month build, and there's almost that instant gratification of having a home. It was a home that, if I were a single person, I'd be proud to own. I'd be proud to live in it. And then, as your family grows—if you're a young person—you just click on another room and put the cot in there. They are strong and sturdy buildings.

They're the types of things we need to look at, but we need to release land. The councils need to look at the way they operate. They need to reduce the red tape, allow that land to be released and reduce the costs of building. Councils need to not put so much pressure on developers—whether it be a big developer or a mum and dad who decide to divide up their block and put a granny flat on there or sell that block—that they turn around and say, 'We can't do it.' Until we do that, until we change our thinking and until we think outside the box, we won't be able to fix this problem.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Llew O'Brien ): The discussion has concluded.