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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1688

Mr STEEDMAN(7.44) —In our society, we consider it only just and natural that a person or a family has the right to a roof over their heads. The issues of housing and home ownership have always been of prime importance to the people of Australia. In fact owning your own home has at times been seen as a sort of religion by the people of this country. But, unfortunately, over the last few years this dream has become more of a nightmare for many people. Rising prices, interest rates and unemployment have combined to rob many of our citizens of what is seen as the right of all Australians-their own home. There is a desperate need for cheaper housing and an even more desperate need for public housing and low rental accommodation.

This Government has made many millions of dollars available in the recent Budget to assist first home buyers, low income groups and disadvantaged citizens . In Victoria the Labor Government in that State already has a massive housing program under way. Combined with the funds and policies of the Federal Government we should see major improvements in that State in the very near future. Housing, of course, means construction, raw materials and, most importantly, jobs. But while all this long overdue activity is admirable, we cannot overcome in a short period the years of neglect by our predecessors. It will be many years before we can hope to make any real impact on the housing problems and the neglect that we have inherited.

This brings me to the point of my speech. I wish to bring to the attention of this House some of the housing problems affecting people in the electorate of Casey, and the outer eastern areas of Melbourne in general. Shelter is a basic necessity and the lack of adequate housing for people of all ages has become a national problem. Housing is related to other facets of community life, such as the development of stable families, employment, unemployment, infrastructures of industry and commerce, essential and supporting services and so on. At present, as I said earlier, we see a decline in the number of people able to own their own homes. As well, there is a decline in the number of houses and flats available for rental as more attractive investments are readily available which do not have the level of risk and uncertainty associated with leasing private dwellings.

The housing council in the outer east has conducted studies which highlight a number of dilemmas. The first study conducted in 1977 found that there were great difficulties for low income families in obtaining permanent rental houses at prices they could afford. At that time there were no Housing Commission homes available in the outer east. Six years later the difficulties are much greater with fewer houses and flats for rental on estate agents' books. Those that are available are beyond the capacity of low and lower to middle income earners to pay. People who have money often cannot find homes to buy at present.

Estate agents surveyed in October 1981 suggested the following factors contributing to the current housing shortage: Insufficient return for houses held by landlords for investment; high interest repayments for small investors; legislation perceived as favouring the tenant; increased demand through the formation of new households by marriage; breakdown of existing marriages; immigration and young people leaving home; and the decline in home ownership. The study suggested that the construction of varied dwelling types was needed, in particular single bedroom flats. Independent units for elderly people should be provided in each local government area. Board and rooming house accommodation should be increased in regions to cater for the needs of many residents in this area especially homeless young people. Dual occupancy was also proposed so that an older house or new houses could be utilised by two families. The study concluded by saying that there was insufficient housing stock to meet the basic needs of a diverse and expanding population. In the two years since that study was undertaken there has been a significant increase in the disparity between available accommodation and prospective tenants.

Apart from the obvious need for accommodation, we, as a Labor Government, must also examine the social effect of the housing shortages. These include marital breakdown and distress. As households separate, housing requirements increase with each spouse requiring rental or low to medium ownership with a relatively small deposit. Financial difficulties are increasing due to spiralling costs and unemployment. The maintenance of house repayments-rental payments-are a first priority but take most of the income of low income residents or social service beneficiaries. These payments mean that families go without other necessities of life including food.

Finally, the problem of homeless young people is reaching horrendous proportions around our cities. Again statistics taken in the outer eastern area of Melbourne show that 70 per cent of young people seeking accommodation were unable to be accommodated and the average age of all people requesting accommodation was 17. On a national scale the waiting list for public housing is now over 100,000. Nearly all single income households are excluded from home ownership; vacancy rates are down to 1.2 per cent and the housing industry is running at four-fifths of its capacity. We obviously have an urgent need for public housing. I can only congratulate the Government on the start it has made. I also urge it to speed up the processes and make sure that more alternatives, such as rental co-operatives and communal programs, are fully examined. We have these problems because of the last seven years of gross neglect by the former Liberal-National Party Coalition Government, the parasites who now sit on the opposite side of the House and who so desperately destroyed the aims and ambitions of those people in our society who need houses and who are young and unemployed.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.