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Question: Regional Housing Affordability

31 May 2022

he Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development.


The Hon. C.M. Scriven: About?


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: About the topic of housing affordability. Don't worry, minister, it's not the budget. As reported in The Advertiser on Saturday, the quarterly HOOD.ai tenant report has identified areas where rent costs are skyrocketing. The report showed that rural and regional areas are some of those that have seen the steepest rent increases over the last years in areas such as Kapunda, Mount Gambier and McLaren Flat.


Last week, the Mount Gambier Messenger reported that in Mount Gambier the cost of renting a house has increased by 7 per cent since January, while renting a unit has increased by 4.7 per cent. For some renters, that is an extra $30 a week that they are having to pay to keep a roof over their head.


With vacancy rates in Mount Gambier at 0.25 per cent, rising rental properties added to low vacancy rates are pushing people towards homelessness. In recent weeks, my office has received calls from constituents who are struggling to find rental accommodation. One constituent told us of the McLaren Vale Lakeside Caravan Park, where a number of people are now living after being displaced from rental accommodation. These people have jobs, but they are unable to find a place to rent.


My question to the minister therefore is: is the government aware of these reports and what strategies are being adopted to address these?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question about an incredibly important issue which is faced not only here in Adelaide but throughout our regional areas. This is something that I have been hearing about firsthand on my various visits to regional areas and of course the honourable member referred to Mount Gambier, which is my home area.


I, too, am hearing these stories, these incredibly difficult stories to hear, of incredibly difficult circumstances. As the honourable member mentioned, or perhaps alluded to without saying so in so many words, I think often people think of homelessness as those who are in desperate financial circumstances, people who don't have work and don't have other social supports, but as he has rightly pointed out, in many cases because of the huge increases in rentals over the last couple of years in particular, there are people who have full-time jobs who still can't afford to rent.


I have heard of people turning up to an open inspection for a rental in Mount Gambier and there being 50 other applicants. I was speaking a few weeks ago at an event and afterwards one gentleman who came up to speak to me said that he had moved to Mount Gambier—again, in this case Mount Gambier—last year. He was working in mental health, which is an area of very high need and regional areas find it very difficult to attract health professionals and retain them. He was loving Mount Gambier. He wanted to stay, and yet for six months he had been without his own house or unit. He was unable to acquire a rental, despite the fact he was a quite well paid health professional.


Similarly, I have heard of two teachers who were working in the local high school, who were very happy to be there. Again, they loved Mount Gambier, because of course Mount Gambier is one of the best places in the state. However, they spent two terms living in a caravan in a caravan park, and that is not something that they wanted to continue to do, which is entirely understandable. Unfortunately, my region has now lost those two teachers, who have returned to, I think it was, Melbourne.


In terms of the Malinauskas Labor government's commitments in regional housing, of course we have made commitments to 150 new homes in regional areas, the building of those, and this is on top of bringing homes back up to the standard that is needed. Some of these homes have spent months or even years vacant. Unfortunately, those issues weren't addressed sufficiently by the former government.


This is in addition to our maintenance blitz on 3,000 homes across the state. Those particular initiatives that I have mentioned are all being funded with new money. That is a part of our commitment, and of course the Minister for Human Services in the other place is working very hard and very diligently on social housing, and across the term, because housing touches many portfolios, we are looking at ways to increase the housing stock both for purchasers and for renters.


The regional development associations across the state have also done a lot of work over the last couple of years in trying to address this issue, and so with my regional development hat on I will continue to work with them and my other parliamentary colleagues to continue to try to address this very important issue.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: does the minister concede that building just 150 new homes in the regions is insufficient? Will she be advocating for her colleagues at a state level to build more housing in the regions, and will she be advocating for the Albanese Labor government to invest more money in public housing in South Australia?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): Thank you for the supplementary question. I think we need to take all the steps that we possibly can to address this issue. As has been mentioned, it is rental housing, it is affordable housing to buy. It is all sorts, all types of housing. It is executive level housing in regional areas as well. All of those are facing a lack of supply, and so we need to use all the mechanisms we possibly can to address these issues.


Certainly, that will include liaising with the new federal government, the Albanese federal government. I don't think the announcement about who is getting what portfolio federally has come out yet, unless it has been today and I haven't had a chance to catch up with the latest news, but I will certainly be working with my state parliamentary colleagues and federal ministers to try to address this issue.