Jacquie Petrusma, Minister for Human Services
Ministerial Statement: Affordable Housing Strategy
23 September, 2015

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on an issue, the importance of which I feel sure is recognised and shared by all members in this House, the need to reduce housing stress and homelessness in Tasmania.

Without a secure home, it is difficult to live a full life and to also participate in society. While many Tasmanians can afford private rental and we enjoy the highest level of home ownership in Australia, this situation is changing.Home ownership is for the first time beginning to decline, more Tasmanians are living in unaffordable private rentals and we are confronted with more of our community being homeless.

This situation is unacceptable and action is required to turn around these trends and improve housing affordability. Homelessness support services need to be able to provide rapid assistance when and where needed to get people back on their feet and into sustainable homes.

This Government has a long-term plan to improve housing outcomes. A commitment to develop an affordable housing strategy for Tasmania was given in our first 100-day implementation plan for Government.

Tasmania’s Affordable Housing Strategy 2015-25, which I am launching today, is the most comprehensive affordable housing strategy ever undertaken in this State.

It will drive the State’s future housing reform agenda for the next decade, so as to increase access to and the supply of, safe, appropriate and affordable homes into the future.

This Strategy addresses the entire housing spectrum from home ownership to affordable rental, public and community housing and crisis accommodation. It also considers innovative partnerships between government, community and the private sectors.

Over the next four years alone, the strategy will provide housing for an additional 1600 vulnerable Tasmanian households and deliver around 900 new homes.

Based on industry benchmarks, achieving this commitment will also create up to 550 full-time equivalent jobs and increase economic activity by $235 million over the next four years.

Madam Speaker, the Strategy will achieve three key outcomes:

  • a decrease in the proportion of low income Tasmanian households experiencing housing stress;
  • a decrease in the proportion of Tasmanians experiencing homelessness; and
  • more support for the Tasmanian construction sector and Tasmanian jobs.

Madam Speaker, this strategy could not be realised without the assistance of many people.

In September 2014, I invited fifty key stakeholders from government, local councils, community housing providers, homelessness services, representatives from industry bodies and the private sector to begin the conversation on the direction we need to take, to improve Tasmania’s housing situation over the next decade.

The Strategy being released today is the culmination of 12 months of work and effort, by the Department of Health and Human Services and by those 50 key industry stakeholders, supported by the University of Tasmania Housing and Community Research Unit and the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, which together provided research and expert advice.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved as well as Departmental staff, that have worked so hard on this shared vision for the future housing needs of vulnerable Tasmanians.

Innovation is a key component of this Strategy and I have no doubt that is because of the active involvement of those who participated.

The approach taken was to involve stakeholders from both the housing ‘supply’ side and housing ‘support’ side in order to encourage robust discussion about improving the whole housing system, rather than solely focusing on ‘support’ side factors, as has occurred in the past.

A stepped approach was adopted with a mix of regional and state-wide workshops to present and provide input into the Strategy from defining the problem to progressing towards agreement of priorities and strategies.

This was complemented by individual or group meetings to discuss specific areas of consideration, and feedback using web-based surveys with all feedback being openly considered.

Stakeholders have expressed their satisfaction with the process and, most importantly, have shown high participation rates and input into the stakeholder sessions and meetings.

All of this has taken place at a time when the Australian Government is undertaking a review of all housing and homelessness policies and programs, to feed into the Reform of the Federation White Paper and the Taxation Review.

The timing for delivery of this Strategy is therefore advantageous for Tasmania as it positions us for better funding and investment opportunities that are innovative and evidence based.

Madam Speaker, the evidence shows that housing stress and the risk of homelessness impact people at different times of their lives as they transition from one housing situation to another.

It is at these transition points that people become vulnerable. By understanding the risks that people encounter at different transition points we can design better solutions that prevent or respond to housing problems, leading to better housing outcomes.

Five common housing pathways have been identified that can put people at risk of becoming vulnerable.

The pathways are not necessarily linear transitions nor does each pathway apply to everyone. The five pathways include shifting to independence, forming or dissolving households, leaving the workforce and inability to live independently.

The range of housing pathways demonstrates that there are many dimensions to solving housing affordability problems. A range of appropriate and targeted interventions to mitigate the risks are therefore required.

The evidence shows that the affordable housing supply problem facing Tasmania has three components: the need for new supply, the inappropriateness of supply and poor access to supply.

Tasmania also needs on average about 2 392 new dwellings a year to meet its long-term supply needs through to 2031. Of these new houses, it is estimated that 27 per cent, or 656 per annum, need to be low priced affordable homes.

As well, there is increasing demand for affordable homes appropriate to the needs of older persons. The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over is projected to almost double by 2062, with 31 per cent of the State’s projected population growth over the period from 2013 to 2062 comprising of persons aged 65 years and over.

There is also demand for appropriate housing for people living with disabilities. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will fund individualised packages of care and support which will enable people to live more independently. This is expected to drive an increase in demand for affordable housing in the private market and for social housing. The National Disability Insurance Agency, which will administer the NDIS, is therefore developing a funding mechanism to drive new and innovative supply.

Access to supply in the private rental market is also a major issue, where there is a significant proportion – 39 per cent, of lower priced rental homes being rented to moderate and high income households who could afford higher priced properties.

This market situation pushes low income households into housing stress as they are forced to lease higher cost rental properties that they cannot afford. If this rental mismatch did not exist, many low income renters would not be in housing stress. Addressing this issue will relieve pressure on the social housing system.

The Tasmanian Government’s Affordable Housing Strategy responds to the lack of affordable supply with three broad strategies and related key reform directions – prevention, targeted early intervention, and rapid assistance to those with more immediate needs.

The goal of prevention is to ensure an adequate supply of affordable homes for low income Tasmanians to prevent them from falling into housing stress and insecurity.

The goal of early intervention is to provide targeted intervention to a suite of affordable housing options that meet the needs of tenants including social housing, access into affordable private rentals and home ownership. This early support can prevent housing insecurity or evictions.

The goal of rapid assistance is to provide vulnerable households with quick access into secure homes, to restore normal living conditions and avoid crisis accommodation or other insecure housing.

Madam Speaker, to support Tasmania’s Affordable Housing Strategy, the Government has developed Tasmania’s Affordable Housing Action Plan 2015-2019, which articulates this Government’s commitment over the next four years to deliver a landmark improvement in support for the supply of affordable housing in Tasmania.

The Action Plan commences with an immediate investment of $13.5 million this financial year in addition to the $9.3 million in new projects already funded in the 2015-16 Budget and the $4.4 million allocated to housing initiatives under the Safe Homes, Safe Families: Tasmania’s Family Violence Action Plan 2015-20.

During the development of the 2016-17 Budget, priority will also be given to funding a broad suite of initiatives over the period 2016-17 to 2018-19.

As I mentioned before Madam Speaker, the Action Plan’s immediate investment, new initiatives and actions will provide $235 million into the Tasmanian economy and create up to 550 full time equivalent jobs over the life of the Action Plan.

These initiatives are located right across the state, with a particular emphasis on the north and north-west, which means this Action Plan will be bringing more growth and more jobs into those regions as each initiative is rolled out.

These jobs will be on top of the extra 6,200 jobs created in this state since March 2014 and will further increase dwelling approvals which is currently growing by 16% per cent.

All this investment will come on top of the existing $524.47 million over four years that is allocated to housing services in Tasmania under state and national programs.

Madam Speaker we’re getting on with the job of growing the economy with the needs of Tasmania’s most vulnerable at the forefront.

Through the Action Plan we will increase supply by around 900 new homes as well as fund a range of support initiatives, such as landlord incentives, head leases, and Streets Ahead, that will together provide housing for 1600 vulnerable Tasmanians over the next four years.

Actions to address the broad range of housing needs, include:

  • Substantial land release to private developers, with capacity to supply around 250 new lots;
  • Around 300 new social housing properties under partnership arrangements with local government, private and community sectors;
  • 350 households eligible for social housing assisted into affordable and secure private rentals using landlord incentives;
  • 200 additional young people rapidly rehoused into private rentals under head lease arrangements;
  • 300 households assisted into affordable home ownership;
  • 40 backyard units for young people to stay in the family home;
  • 119 new supported accommodation beds for the duration of need for vulnerable youth, elderly and people living with disability. When added to the 46 units at Trinity Hill due for completion by November, this represents a total of 165 new supported accommodation beds; and
  • More crisis accommodation.

The immediate investment this year includes funding of $5 million for 20 new homes through private developer social housing grants. A Request for Tender process will engage builders and developers in the rapid construction of these new homes for those in need, in areas of high demand close to services.

This program is based on approaches used by Housing Tasmania in the past to build public housing stock and will rapidly increase available housing for those on the waiting list.

The tender for this program will be released in October 2015.

The Government will also target housing supply in regional areas with higher demand in Tasmania, like the North West coast. By utilising perfectly situated land in Somerset for example, there will be 15 lots for sale on the open market aimed at those who are eligible under the Government’s Home Share scheme and six independent living units for older residents to age at home.

The immediate initiatives being delivered by this Government also include spending $2.5 million to generate new shovel ready housing supply of at least 12 homes in the North of the State that will be targeted specifically for older people and people living with a disability. These homes will be located close to a range of services and community infrastructure.

The Action Plan also commits $1.4 million to the development of a dedicated Youth at Risk Response Centre. This centre will provide a foundation to break the cycle experienced by young people who have come to the attention of children and youth services and the justice system. The facility will combine a drop-in centre and short-term supported therapeutic accommodation.

This government will also invest $400 000 to trial the provision of smaller homes known as youth castles.

Madam Speaker, young people can find the transition to independent living a challenge, as the responsibility of a whole house in the first instance can be overwhelming for a young person, and can result in them becoming homeless.

The provision of these youth castles aims to prevent this homelessness.

Another identified gap in the provision of supported accommodation in Tasmania has been a facility that provides a home for fathers and their children. This is why we will spend $2.5 million on a new seven unit Dads and Kids Accommodation Facility located in Southern Tasmania. This facility will provide wrap around services and support to fathers and their children in accommodation, access and social skills.

Furthermore, to build on the capacity of those community housing organisations registered under the National Regulatory System, an Expression of Interest process will be conducted in October 2015 seeking innovative proposals that can leverage new supply from the existing social housing portfolio.

It is intended that this would involve the transfer of between 300-500 existing houses to provide additional borrowing capacity and recurrent financial incentives for the community housing organisations. This can facilitate the construction of up to 150 additional new homes that will be directed towards priority applicants from the Housing Register as long term affordable rentals for at least thirty years.

$500 000 is allocated to this program per year for the recurrent financial incentives, with a commitment of $2 million over the four years of the Action Plan.

These new homes will be in addition to the 321 dwellings the Better Housing Futures providers have already committed to deliver under their existing agreements.

To continue to support home ownership, $2.8 million is being made available this year to continue the Home Share Program, which will assist an additional 50 Tasmanian households, who otherwise cannot obtain finance, to enter into home ownership. This shared equity model requires the home buyer to borrow no more than 70 per cent of the value of the home. On average, the Government’s contribution is $56,000 per property.

This program provides an opportunity for households to purchase a new home or an existing one from Housing Tasmania. To date over 90 per cent of recipients have used Home Share to purchase a new home.

As a down payment to ensure the year on year, roll out of new affordable housing supply, $200 000 will be spent this year in the preparation of land release sites for construction of affordable homes. This activity will have a state-wide focus over the duration of the action plan.

These new initiatives and the other key 19 actions over the four year life of the Action Plan will continue to build on the high level of stakeholder engagement that was a hallmark of the strategy development process.

The 19 key Government actions are:

  • Affordable Housing Supply through land release;
  • New Social Housing Supply;
  • Public Housing Reinvestment;
  • Residential Tenancy Act Amendment for incremental bond payments;
  • Sustainability of housing on Flinders and Cape Barren Islands;
  • Private Landlords and Housing Connect Partnership;
  • Youth Head Leases;
  • Doubling of the deposit assistance under the Streets Ahead Program;
  • Awareness Campaign and Early Referrals for Housing Connect;
  • Backyard Units for Young People;
  • More Supported Youth Accommodation;
  • More Supported Disability Accommodation;
  • New Supported Elderly Accommodation;
  • Expanded Access to the Housing Register;
  • Triage Training and SHIP Enhancement for Housing Connect;
  • An Outcomes Framework for Funded Services;
  • Activity Based Funding;
  • More investment into Crisis Housing; and
  • Innovative Supported Accommodation for Homeless Young People aged under 16.

Madam Speaker, Tasmania’s Affordable Housing Strategy 2015-2025 and the accompanying first four year Action Plan provides the leadership and direction needed to address housing stress and homelessness in Tasmania, as well as to help more vulnerable Tasmanians into affordable, safe homes.

Copies of the Strategy and Action Plan are now publicly available on the Department of Health and Human Services website. The web address will be www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/tasmanian_affordable_housing_strategy