Harriet needs to tackle crisis in her own patch

Nationals’ State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has written to Housing Minister and Local Gippsland Upper House MP, Harriet Shing, to request she urgently meet with housing agencies in East Gippsland as the homelessness situation spirals out of control.

Mr Bull used Lakes Entrance as an example to highlight the local issue, a town where half a dozen camps of homeless people have grown in the past few months.

“I have been critical of the way Labor has approached this in that we have less public housing residences in East Gippsland than we had in 2017, we have a cost-of-living crisis worse than any other state, less rental properties due to the State Government’s increased taxes on landlords, and reduced powers for landlords. We now have Federal Labor saying we will have 600,000 immigrants coming into the country that we do not have housing for.

“In addition, we also have a large cohort of people (particularly in Lakes), who have been accessing cheap rental at tourist accommodation in the off-season, but have been asked to leave by December 1 to accommodate for the arrival of tourists this summer.

“Recently, I met with St Vincent de Paul’s Assistance Centre, which has had interactions with a number of these people, as has my office - so it is very real.

“This is the Minister’s own electorate and I would like to see her come down and discuss both short and long-term solutions with the agencies. In the short term this may be providing locations for temporary shelter, showers and toilets for hygiene and ensuring access to food, as well as better resourcing for those agencies that deal with the homeless.

“In the long term, it is making sure we do not sell off the current social housing stock, as is being done.

“Labor said it would provide 12,000 new homes over five years, but it is not additional homes. We only have 394 more social housing homes statewide than we had in 2018, which does not keep up with population growth and these new homes are largely in the suburbs, as we have had a net loss in Gippsland since 2018.”

Mr Bull said the issue has arisen as Labor is selling off, decommissioning or demolishing homes at a similar rate it is building the new ones. While the number of homes has reduced in East Gippsland, Latrobe and Wellington, it gets worse than that.

“Three-bedroom homes are being replaced by one-bedroom homes, so state-wide we had 160,348 bedrooms in 2018 and that is now down to 157,615 – 2,733 fewer. How can housing agencies possibly keep up?

“I am seeking Ms Shing to come down here in the first instance to deal with the immediate issue that is confronting us, and then make some commitments around a net gain in social housing for our region, not new homes, a net increase.

“A new one built means nothing if you are selling off or demolishing an old one at the same time,” said Mr Bull.

Monday, 4 December 2023