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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11681

Mr BIDGOOD (3:17 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Housing. How is the government’s investment in housing supporting jobs in regional Australia and building the nation?

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) —I very happy to report that the nation-building economic stimulus package social housing component is bang on track to deliver three-quarters of the homes that we are set to deliver by the end of 2010. More than 3,200 have started and almost 200 are complete, and in the repairs and maintenance area work has been done on 40,000 homes already. In fact, 15,000 homes have benefited from repairs to common areas and 5,500 homes have had major work done to them, the sort of major work that has meant that these houses have been returned to active use where they would have fallen into disrepair and disuse otherwise or where they were already vacant.

It was terrific to visit the member for Dawson’s electorate recently and see a brand-new housing construction project starting off there in Cannonvale. One of several projects that we visited on that particular trip was six two-bedroom apartments including three units that will be accessible for people with disabilities. The slab had been laid, the external walls were going up and the internal framing was starting on that day as well. I met the project manager for that development, Eamon Carey. His company is a small family-run business on the Whitsunday Coast. He told me that 14 local subcontractors were working on that site every day. The work started in September and will go until April 2010. These are absolutely vital jobs at a time when companies like Eamon Carey’s family-run business would have been in trouble with the global financial crisis. That story has been repeated right across the country and right across Queensland. Eighty homes from the nation-building economic stimulus program have been approved in Mackay, Bowen, Proserpine and Cannonvale; 304 homes will be built in Townsville; 300 in Far North Queensland, including 200 in the Cairns region and 80 in the Atherton Tablelands, Innisfail and Ingham; and 571 homes on the Gold Coast.

Of course, it is not just the nation-building economic stimulus package that is supporting jobs in housing and construction. In Cairns, when I went to visit the member for Leichhardt’s electorate, I met a lovely couple, Sam and Margaret Costa, who had moved into one of the first homes through our National Rental Affordability Scheme. They were a farming couple who had lost their farm due to many years of drought and they had moved to Cairns to be closer to family supports. They had been sleeping with relatives in lounge rooms and I asked Margaret where she thought she would be if she had not found the National Rental Affordability Scheme property. She told me that she thought she would be sleeping under a bridge. This is a couple in their 60s—Margaret is very ill and her husband, who had a tractor roll onto him, is her carer—and they are the type of people who are benefiting from the 100 new affordable rental homes that will be built through the National Rental Affordability Scheme in their area.

In Mackay I announced 59 National Rental Affordability Scheme properties. I went to the site where 35 three-bedroom townhouses will be built. They are going to be rented out for $300 a week, a $100 saving for the people who will be moving into those properties—almost $5,000 a year. That makes a huge difference to a family struggling to keep their heads above water. It may even mean some of those families can start saving a deposit for a home of their own. Eighteen months ago when I visited Mackay people told me all the time about rental stress in that area and how residents of Mackay who had been there all their lives were moving out because they could no longer afford a place to rent in Mackay. Conditions are a little better now. Because of the economic downturn, there is less pressure on rentals in that area but, as the economy recovers, that rental pressure will return. I am happy to report that, with each of these National Rental Affordability Scheme properties, tradespeople, architects and planners are involved in their construction and that they will make a huge difference as that rental pressure returns. With each of these homes, the repairs and maintenance and the new construction are supporting jobs right across the trades, including planning and architects. All of them are contributing to a future where people will find an affordable home to rent just a little bit easier.