Time for a dedicated Minister to address the homelessness and housing crisis

With Homeless Persons’ Week 2013 commencing on Monday, 5 August, Greens Housing spokesperson Jan Barham has called for the Premier to appoint a single Minister to deliver a coordinated response to the housing crisis in New South Wales.

“Homelessness has been rising, social housing is unable to cope with demand and housing affordability pressures are growing worse. There is a need for urgent, coordinated action across the housing and homelessness sector, and the best way to ensure Government is dealing with the issue is to assign full responsibility to one Minister,” Ms Barham said.

Under the O’Farrell Government, housing responsibilities have been divided between the Minister for Family and Community Services, whose portfolio includes Housing NSW and public housing tenancies, and the Minister for Finance and Services, who has oversight of the Land and Housing Corporation that controls public housing stock, including its sale and redevelopment.

“Decisions to sell off public housing entirely, or to redevelop and hand some of the land over to the private market, have to be aligned with evidence about where the housing pressures are greatest and how we can best meet the needs of people unable to access the private housing sector,” Ms Barham said.

“The Auditor-General’s recent report into public housing highlights the problems of housing supply shortages and the Government’s massive maintenance backlog, along with the vulnerable status of many who are already in public housing or on the waiting list.

“The recommendations of the Auditor-General point to several key plans and reviews that need to be in place by the end of this year and during 2014. I’m concerned that so many sell-offs and redevelopments of public property have already taken place, yet we haven’t seen a clear strategy or detailed figures about how this will be turned into more effective and better quality social housing.

Ms Barham noted in the upcoming Budget Estimates hearings she would seek greater clarity about how the Government plan to reverse the trend in homelessness and pressure on public housing. “I hope the Government will take advantage of the Estimates process to deliver some clarity to Parliament and the public. Questions asked in Parliament haven’t been responded to with much clarity or detail so far,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Homeless Persons’ Week 2013

Auditor-General’s report on Making the best use of public housing