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Monday, 15 October 1973
Page: 2078

Mr ASHLEY-BROWN (Mitchell) - The purpose of this Bill, as stated by the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), is to authorise the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to make advances not exceeding $327,975,000 to the States for welfare housing during 1973-74 and the first 6 months of 1974-75 in accordance with the provisions of the 1973 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. With its share of the, allocation the New South Wales Housing Commission proposes to spend approximately $30m on the commencement of 4,000 dwellings in the 1973-74 period. It also proposes to spend $21m of its allocation on the completion of dwellings now under construction, $3m on improving standards of existing homes and $5m on land purchase and development. When one realises that within the State of New South Wales alone the shortage of homes runs to 40,000 and that the situation in other States, particularly Victoria and South Australia, is nearly as bad, one appreciates the tremendous task that the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) and this Government have in trying to reduce the deficit of houses in the Commonwealth at present.

The total allocation of $218. 65m to the States represents an increase of $45. 45m on the 1972-73 allocation of $173.2m, or an increase of 26 per cent. The difference between this figure of $218. 65m and the amount authorised by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) of $327.975m, namely, $109.32m represents advances allowed for during the initial months of 1974-75, equivalent to half of the advances agreed to for 1973-74. The interest payable by each State on these advances will be at the very attractive rate of 4 per cent per annum on moneys allocated to State housing authorities and 4.5 per cent on money allocated to home builders account. These rates are most attractive, the 4 per cent payable by the States being 2.5 per cent below the current bond rate of 6.5 per cent. The rate of interest payable by purchasers of State authority dwellings will be not less than 5 per cent per annum nor more than 5i per cent per annum. The funds allocated to the home builders account of each State will be used to provide finance for prospective home owners by way of loans through co-operative terminating building societies or approved lending societies of the State. Interest on loans to prospective home owners from a co-operative terminating building society or approved authority receiving money from the home builders account will not exceed 5$ per cent per annum.

As the Minister has stated, we have now entered a new era in housing for the underprivileged. There is tremendous leeway to make up, but at last we have started. It is a triumphant end to the struggle to get a better deal for those who have been left behind in the postwar materialistic race. The significance of the present Housing Agreement is the assumption by the Australian Government of prime responsibility for the housing of the poor. The House will remember that the Housing Agreement with the States stipulates that not more than 30 per cent of the public housing authority money may be used to build commission homes for sale. This means that the Housing Commission must build predominantly homes for rental, which is the area of greatest social and economic need.

I sincerely hope that the housing authorities, when building homes to sell, will endeavour to build such homes amongst homes that are built for renting! In other words, the homes that are built for renting purposes should be mixed with those that are built to be sold. My reason for this request is that generally a man who owns his own home keeps his place tidy, cuts his lawn and so on. This has a tendency to make the occupiers of the rented homes in close proximity follow suit. From my experience in local government over many years, generally, I have found that rented homes built together as a section of rented homes were disaster areas when it came to the occupiers keeping the places looking nice, making gardens, cutting the lawns and so on. If the commissions were to mix houses which were owned with houses which were rented this problem to a great extent would be eliminated.

Another very important aspect of the Housing Agreement with the States is that not less than 85 per cent of the homes to be built must be allocated to families where the average gross weekly income of the main breadwinner, exclusive of overtime and child endowment payments, does not exceed 85 per cent of average weekly earnings. This enables the not-so-well-paid family to have the ability to obtain a home. Where the family includes more than 2 children this limit can be increased by $2 a week for each child after the second child. Because of this condition those eligible for homes mainly will be the lower income families who now are paying too high a proportion of their income in private rents. We hope that with the introduction of this provision, which will come into effect immediately .mis Bill is passed, this problem will be eliminated. It will also eliminate the problems of a large proportion of people living in unsatisfactory accommodation at present, such as those who are living with a mother-in-law, those living in rooms, or those living in conditions that should not be tolerated today.

Honourable members will remember that the Housing Agreement expressed the Government's concern at the frequent absence of essential community amenities in many new areas developed by the State housing authority and the problems it led to in the large housing settlements. This is the first time that a clause such as the one I will refer to has been written into a housing agreement and been agreed to by the States. We have tremendous problems in areas such as Green Valley and Mount Druitt, where no provision has been made for amenities. In these areas, we find a tremendous housing project which has been completed, spoiled by the fact that, apart from houses, there were no amenities in any shape or form and great problems were created, particularly with regard to the children going to a park, a place of recreation, a community centre and so forth. To a certain extent this situation will be rectified by the introduction of this clause. The terms of the grant will allow the temporary use of part of the grants for housing to be used to provide essential community facilities. As I said, we can now use part of this money for that purpose.

I should say that the Minister for Housing would be well aware of the necessity for the housing authorities to consider seriously the question of amenities of this type. As a member of local councils for many years in the Mount Druitt, Rooty Hill and Green Valley areas 'I found tremendous problems with child delinquency, parents who cleared out and broken homes because although the areas had been completed and one could not better the type of home found there, there was not a shopping centre, a park and recreation area or a community centre of any description; there were houses and nothing else and this created tremendous problems.

I commend the Minister on his strong suggestion to the States that wherever possible and practicable the authorities should intermingle privately built homes with housing authority homes. This breaks up the standard design of housing commission homes, brings into the community people of different wage structures and strengthens community life. Homes produced by a State Housing commission or by the Defence Service Homes Division may be of 16 different designs. But in each area design follows design, with the result that in Mount Druitt, for example, where 30,000 or 40,000 people have been housed by the Housing Commission, those 16 designs are repeated in every third, fourth or fifth street. If private builders are allowed to construct houses in different sections of a development, the monotony is broken up and a different class of people is introduced into that area.

It must be remembered that when the Labor Party took over the reins of government in December last, approximately 93,000 people were waiting for housing authority homes. It is estimated that at present the provision of these homes trails by 41 years the requirement of houses by individual Australian families. It is accepted that we cannot accomplish the impossible. We realise that a contented family is one that has a home, whether rented or owned. We realise also that a nation as prosperous as Australia should not be faced with the present position and that in the years to come every endeavour should be made to close the gap between the demand and the supply of homes for individual families by the Government supplying homes at the moderate cost I have set out in my speech.

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