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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1513

Mr ASHLEY-BROWN (Mitchell) - I have much pleasure in supporting the Housing Assistance Bill. It may be of interest to recall the changes that have taken place over the past couple of decades in the type of home being built, the manner of its construction and the availability of finance to the home owners. Some of the changes have been quite dramatic and may indicate the nature of future changes in these fields. The physical changes include the growth of the flat and the unit as alternative modes of living, and the rapid growth of cities, leading to a big rise in land prices, as we have seen throughout the country. Financial changes include the development of both commercial savings banks and permanent building societies as major suppliers of housing funds. There has been the advent of mortgage insurance which has virtually eliminated the risk of any loss of the lender today.

At the end of the 1939-45 war there was a severe shortage of housing. When production sluggishly resumed, the typical home produced was, by modern standards, rather small and spartan - open fireplaces, few hot water services and very little in the way of built-in cupboards and other fixtures. Finance at this time was a problem for young home seekers and the second mortgage was a common feature of the day. Flat construction was a rarity and the unit, the individually owned apartment, was hardly known. Housing sizes have risen since then for some years. It is very interesting to read some material supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. He has been collecting statistics for only a short period, but these reveal that from the June quarter of 1970 to the March quarter of 1972 the average size of houses completed in Australia rose from 12.9 squares to 13.5 squares. There was a strong movement towards brick and mortar amd brick veneer dwellings. This, to a large extent, was due to less building maintenance in the way of painting, better resale price and better appearance. Also fire risk was not so great and the cost of insurance was found to be much lower. If we compare the figures for the construction of homes for the period from 1947 to 1971 it is very interesting to note that the brick mortar and brick veneer homes in 1947 represented 34.6 per cent of homes built. In 1971 it had increased to 45.7 per cent. On the other hand stone and concrete homes had dropped from 6.2 per cent in 1947 to 5 per cent in 1971. The number of timber and fibro homes had dropped from 53.6 per cent in 1947 to 47.1 per cent in 1971. Houses constructed of other materials had dropped from 5.6 per cent in 1947 to 2.2 per cent in 1971. We can see that brick and brick veneer is becoming the more popular type of building.

This increase in the proportion of brick dwellings is even more striking if recent annual construction rates are compared. In the 1971-72 period 47 per cent of all homes completed had bricks for their outer walls, 28 per cent were timbered and 24 per cent were of asbestos cement exteriors. By 1972 houses with brick outer walls accounted for 78 per cent of all houses completed. Brick and brick veneer today has become the most popular type of home. The annual production of houses and flats doubled between 1955-56 and 1970-71, a period during which the population increased by 40.9 per cent. In 1955-56, 72,260 houses and flats were commenced as compared with 146,368 commenced in 1971- 72. However it is interesting to note that government housing commencements, that is housing commission homes, amounted to a little over 15,000 in 1971-72 as against a peak of 19,000 in 1964-65. In New South Wales government housing commencements fell in 1971-72 by 31 per cent to their lowest level since 1959-60.

Approximately 6 months ago the Housing Commission of New South Wales advised the New South Wales Government that suitable land at suitable and reasonable prices was becoming difficult to acquire and that the whole success of the housing commission home was that it was reasonably priced for both sale and renting purposes. The demand for housing commission homes in all States, according to the statistics, is now about 90,000 in excess of production. New South Wales alone at the present time is 40,000 homes short. Each month in New South Wales - it is assumed the same would apply to other States - the margin between demand and production is becoming wider. In New South Wales the inner metropolitan area and the coastal area 30 miles north and south of Sydney have long since been completely built out. Also, development both south and west of Sydney is to the very foothills of the mountains and in the face of ever-pressing demands the limited supply of serviced land continues to force the price of homes upwards.

The Government's objective is that every Australian family should be able to obtain land and housing at reasonable prices and that local government should have the finan cial resources to provide the necessary amenities. This can be made possible only if local government has access to the nation's finance. Local government plays a very important part in housing commission ventures and also the construction of war service homes. We on the Government side say that if urban and regional development is to be a success, and if housing is to be a success, local government must have the necessary finance to perform its proper functions and to provide modern and efficient services for residents of any new housing development at the time that that development is taking place.

The core of the problem in the past has been the downgrading of local and semigovernment authorities by both Federal and State governments. Because of the lack of adequate access to the nation's financial resources local and semi-government authorities in the past have been unable to provide the services and the amenities for which they are responsible to make these housing ventures a success. The Housing Commission which came into operation in New South Wales after the Second World War filled a need at that time and has been doing so ever since, lt is meeting a requirement that could not have been met by normal builders and contractors. People were desperate for homes but did not have the resources to build for themselves, nor the large deposits for purchase required by the private builder. I remember the 'Julian Doyle Poverty Report' of 1969 in which the author stated:

Apart from income deficiencies the most important element contributing to poverty was the cost of housing. Many people are in poverty because of the exorbitant cost of their housing. This applies particularly to large families, deserted wives or the aged. Many people whose income otherwise would have been adequate are dragged below the poverty line because of their housing costs.

A report of a Government survey published in 'The Age' of 23rd February 1971 indicated that a large number of pensioners were paying exorbitant rents to live in hovels.

The Housing Commission, or the State housing authorities in other States, therefore are the answer to this problem. It is most disturbing to know that the country today is racing towards a stage at which we will be 100,000 below the number of homes required. It is only by strong action by this Government, through the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), that this situation will be rectified, and then only by full co-operation on the part of State Ministers for Housing.

The Minister for Housing, at a luncheon address to the Association of Co-operative Building Societies of New South Wales, said:

Any developed nation which has 93,000 applicants for Housing Commission or public housing is facing a crisis.

As a mayor of one of the largest municipalities in the western metropolitan area of Sydney for many years, I lived through the early ventures of the Housing Commission of New South Wales. In Seven Hills and Lalor Park, approximately 30 miles from Sydney, and parts of the municipality of Blacktown, the Housing Commission, as part of its first venture, built 3,266 homes and housed 13,000 people. Later it created the large satellite town of Mount Druitt, still within the municipality of Blacktown, where it built 7,200 homes and housed 30,000 people. The type of home built by the Housing Commission in these 2 ventures could not be bettered for design, appearance and durability.

But large projects such as the Mount Druitt housing venture in New South Wales where 47,000 people have now settled are a serious embarrassment to local government councils in whose area they are constructed. The councils have neither the financial resources nor the staff to make the projects a success. I refer to the provision of urgent amenities which are necessary as part of the project when the houses are occupied. Many more projects such as Mount Druitt will have to be built in New South Wales to pick up the leeway of homes which exists at the present time. Consideration should be given to widening the powers of the Housing Commission so that it can work in closer co-operation with the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Furthermore, an examination should be made of the financial resources of councils to ascertain the amount that they can afford and the amount that is necessary by way of loans to enable them to provide amenities such as recreation areas, baby health centres, swimming pools, access roads, footpaths and bus shelters at the same time that the Housing Commission is building homes. The provision of homes must go along with the provision of such amenities.

In New South Wales consideration should be given to widening the powers of the Housing Commission to enable it to build footpaths, in particular and, if necessary, to build houses with garages and to provide park and recreation areas. It would be easy to construct these things at the same time as the whole project is being built. A private developer today has to provide footpaths but the Housing Commission, under its powers, is not obliged to meet this requirement. The result is that children have to walk to school on the roads and parents have to walk to the shops on the roads until such times as the local council can accumulate funds to provide footpaths. In Mount Druitt where 47,000 people were housed it was 6 years after completion of the housing project before the Council was able to provide a footpath, a community centre and a baby health centre. It was only after long and protracted requests for loans or grants from the State Government that the local council could build these footpaths. Consideration should be given to giving the Housing Commissions the power to build houses with garages. We seem to have overlooked the fact that the New South Wales Housing Commission today, although building a very nice type of home, is not in any instance building garages. Families today have one, 2 or 3 cars. It is the provision of these little amenities or the failure to provide them which makes the Housing Commission a success or a failure.

We must remember that 95 per cent of the people who make application for Housing Commission homes come from the inner metropolitan areas where every amenity is outside the front door. There are telephones, bus shelters, corner shops, hotels and shopping centres. However, in these big projects which are undertaken by the Housing Commission, no amenity is provided by the Commission apart from the houses if builds. At Mount Druitt there were 7,200 Housing Commission homes built but it was not until 6 years later that an amenity of any kind was provided for this area. In these new areas today we must provide baby health centres, pre-school education facilities, kindergarten centres, parks and recreation areas at the same time as the project is being undertaken. Therefore, consideration should be given to achieving cooperation between the Housing Commission, the Department of Urban and Regional Development and local councils in order to make housing projects a success. Might I say in conclusion that it has been the neglect and apathy of governments and not the actions of private citizens that have made the price of land and houses the social and economic problem it is today. I am quite sure that this

Government, with the help and co-operation of the States, can rapidly solve this problem.

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