Gippsland Public Housing Critical Shortage pressurised by Covid-19

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (17:58): My adjournment matter this evening is directed to the Minister for Housing, and it relates to a critical shortage of public housing across Gippsland. There has been a swell of demand from constituents who are desperate to access affordable accommodation and a roof over their heads and a safe place to call home. This demand stems from a variety of reasons—financial difficulties, accommodation issues, transfer from care, lack of support, mental health and health issues, and some have had to flee their current arrangement because of domestic violence—all pressurised due to the current COVID-19 situation. At a recent conference of Leongatha’s St Vincent de Paul Society, the issues of homelessness and how the problem has multiplied since the COVID-19 pandemic were deemed to be the most critical of issues. The reasons for public demand included interstate travellers who would otherwise travel overseas taking over camp sites where disadvantaged people have traditionally had options to live. The sea and tree changers’ exodus from metropolitan Melbourne to regional Victoria, such as Gippsland, also was a strong indicator that demand is there, and also the lack of private sector housing and rental prices going up and up for people on low incomes.

In recent times a number of my constituents have informed me that they have been on the public waiting list for months and even years. Some are couch surfing. Some are sleeping rough. Others, including young families, have been allocated emergency crisis accommodation while they desperately wait for more permanent arrangements. One mother who speaks with my office regularly—and we have advocated for her on many occasions—has two small children, is living in a motel room and is cooking meals in a microwave, and that is her only home. Demand is growing in Gippsland: as at 31 December 2019 there were 1378 households awaiting priority access in Gippsland on the housing register. We also understand that the housing register does not identify all those other—hidden—homeless people who just do not even make it onto the housing register.

While the Andrews government has committed to some funding in relation to affordable homes, what we need to see is direct action now in Gippsland, and we need to make sure that Gippsland and regional Victoria certainly get their fair share. So I ask the minister to provide a plan to deliver this affordable housing for my constituents now and not in 2025.