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Pages tagged "Housing and Urban Development"

Question: Rental Affordability Report

13 October 2021 

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Human Services on the topic of rental affordability.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: A survey released yesterday by the Anti-Poverty Network of South Australia has painted a grim snapshot of the renting experience in South Australia. The report found, among other things, that one in four people have less then $14 a day, or $100 a week, after paying their rent; 77 per cent said the cost of their rent often impacted on their ability to pay their bills on time or to eat; only 7 per cent received a rent freeze or reduction during the pandemic; and 46 per cent said their house did not have adequate heating or cooling. My questions to the minister are:

  1. What action will the government be taking in relation to the report?
  2. Will the minister advocate at cabinet for rent capping and rent subsidies to support people who are struggling to pay their rent during this economic crisis?


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question. Indeed, the matters of rental and issues in the rental market to a large degree rest with Attorney-General, who has responsibility for CBS, so some of those questions I will take on notice and see what response I can provide for him.


In terms of my responsibilities as Minister for Human Services under the SA Housing Authority, of course we have the Private Rental Assistance Program by which people can access bond and rent in advance. When they go to the housing office—or they can do this online these days—they can be assessed as to what is considered an affordable rental price for them, and they can be provided with that assistance.


People who are Centrelink beneficiaries in the private rental market also have access to commonwealth rental assistance. We saw, as all honourable members would know, legislation here during COVID to provide freezes in the rental market and some additional measures through the SACAT process to assist people who might be experiencing a potential hardship. Centrelink certainly provided support for people through the COVID process.


Some of the commentators are certainly remarking that the rental market is easing, not quite the same really tight situation we have seen. Of course, within our own public housing people's rent is capped at their income, rather than being exposed to the private rental market, so people have that particular financial advantage through being in a Housing Authority property. The other matters the honourable member has raised I will take on notice and bring back a response.


Question: Rental Affordability Scheme

22 September 2021

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Reports in The Advertiser today suggest that hundreds of South Australians are at risk of becoming homeless this year as an average of 10 properties a week come off the National Rental Affordability Scheme. This comes at a time when the rental crisis in South Australia is squeezing even moderate income earners out of the housing market. SACOSS and Shelter SA have expressed concern that low income families and individuals will be left without a roof over their heads when the NRAS program progressively comes to an end. My question to the Minister for Human Services is:

  1. What is the government doing to ensure our public housing stock is increased to ensure we don't see families end up on the street?
  2. Will the government commit to a state government rent subsidy, even as an interim measure, to avoid this impending disaster?


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question and acknowledge his interest in the issue of potential homelessness. I have been hearing impending predictions of gloom and disaster in the homelessness space for a long time. With that in mind, monitoring what's happening across the environment of the private rental, private purchase, community housing and public housing space and homelessness services is something that we are very, very mindful of through the South Australian Housing Authority.


In terms of the services that we provide, we do, of course, have the private rental assistance program, which provides a bond and rent in advance to people who are in the private rental market. In addition to that, people who are on commonwealth Centrelink benefits have access to commonwealth rental assistance to assist them in the private rental market.


The number of people in rental and mortgage stress is something that we have been very mindful of, which is why we came up with the original strategy. So the Housing Authority has been active, returning to its heritage, if you like, of not just providing public housing to people but also building affordable properties for sale, as it used to, many decades ago. The effect of that is to provide those people who get their foot in the private property market, which only ever goes up, particularly in Adelaide; it gets them out of the private rental system and reduces the demand in that space.


Bearing in mind that the private re-rental market is a very large component of what many households rely on, I did note some comments quite recently from someone in the industry that they believed that some of the demand in that space was easing. I think, as we also see the HomeBuilder grants and those projects being completed, there will be people who will move into those properties and, again, that will reduce demand on the rental market, but this is something that we constantly monitor.


As I said yesterday, I think we have been tracking the homelessness data and certainly across the state the overall data doesn't show that homelessness has been increasing. In fact, the trend data shows that it has been reducing over several years. However, we do always monitor what is happening in this space to ensure that we're providing the best suite of services available.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: noting the minister's reply, will the minister commit, on behalf of the government, to introduce a state-based rent subsidy scheme. I'm not talking about the federal scheme: will the minister commit to a state-based rent subsidy scheme?


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): As I said in my original response, we already have the private rental assistance program.


Question: Rental Moratorium

26 August 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:38): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Human Services on the topic of the rental moratorium on evictions for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In May, the parliament provided renters experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 with a reprieve when it extended the moratorium on evictions until 1 September. We know that the pandemic and associated economic crisis has coincided with a rental affordability crisis in our state with more and more South Australians struggling to find affordable housing. My question to the minister is: what arrangements have been put in place to ensure that no South Australians will be evicted into homelessness come 1 September?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:39): I thank the honourable member for his question which sits within the Residential Tenancies Act, an act committed to the Attorney-General, but I will attempt to answer it as best I can, knowing as I do that there are some Housing Authority tenants who appear before SACAT. I should say that my understanding of the way that SACAT operates is that they always take individual circumstances into account, and they have a policy that they do not evict into homelessness. So that is a check and balance, if you like, from that point of view.

The advice that I have from the Attorney in relation to the residential tenancies provisions in the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 is that there has been a significant reduction in reliance on those provisions. For the first six months they were relied on daily; however, towards the end of last year, there has been a gradual decline in them being relevant. It is now anticipated that these provisions may be relied on once to twice per week.

It should also be noted that SACAT already has power to suspend evictions for up to 90 days, which is more than sufficient to deal with those matters. It is only in very rare, extreme cases that SACAT would consider suspending eviction for longer than 90 days under the provisions of the COVID act. I will seek further details from the Attorney in relation to this and bring that back to the chamber, if there is more detail that we can provide.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:40): Supplementary: noting the minister's response, will the minister be advocating to the Attorney-General that the protections that are in place for renters who are experiencing financial hardship be extended?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:40): We take advice from organisations such as community and business services and, indeed, from SACAT. If their advice is that there is no need to continue to extend it further then we would take that advice on board. I think in my original answer I indicated that there is little use of these provisions, and they do need to be lifted at some stage. We would take that on advice from those agencies.


Motion: Rental Moratorium

25 August 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:


That this council—


1. Notes the six-month extension to the short-term moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent due to severe rental distress as a result of COVID-19 is due to expire on September 1;


2. Recognises that the pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the security of South Australians;


3. Calls on the Marshall government to immediately:


     (a) guarantee that no South Australian renter will be evicted into homelessness, by extending the moratorium on eviction;


     (b) waive all rental debt accrued by renters impacted by COVID-19; and


     (c) introduce permanent rent caps to limit annual rent increases.


This is a motion calling on the government to extend the moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent due to severe rental distress as a result of COVID-19. It is also calling on the government to guarantee that no South Australian renter will be evicted into homelessness, by extending that moratorium; to waive all rental debt accrued by renters impacted by COVID-19; and to introduce permanent rent caps to limit annual rent increases.


You may recall back in May, shortly after my appointment to this parliament, I moved to extend the moratorium on evictions and rent hikes for 12 months. Unfortunately, it was only the Greens that supported that, but the government did agree to extend the moratorium until September. We now have a ticking time bomb when it comes to rental affordability that, I think, is going to explode next month unless the government takes action.


I am very concerned about the welfare of South Australians who are experiencing rental stress, who may find themselves evicted next month if the government does not step in and help them. My view is that this government has a responsibility to help the most vulnerable people in our community during this once-in-a-century pandemic, during this once-in-a-century economic crisis.


Sadly—and I think we all hoped we would not still be in this position as we enter into the second half of this year—the impact of COVID-19 is still being felt: the health impacts, but also the significant economic impacts that have destroyed many of our local businesses and are continuing to impact on the capacity of South Australians to make ends meet.


We know that South Australia has a significant shortage of affordable housing. That has been magnified by the failure of the Liberal government to invest in social housing at a state level as part of their budget, but it has also been exacerbated by the failure of the Liberal government in Canberra to invest in social housing and to provide any support for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.


They gave a short-term increase to JobSeeker last year. The Greens welcomed that, but they should be making that increase permanent. If you are somebody who is single and you are trying to live on JobSeeker—and I say trying to live on JobSeeker because it is woefully inadequate—there is not a single property that you can afford to rent in South Australia. Anglicare did a report on this and that is what they found. There is not even one place that you can afford to rent. That is an outrage. It is an indictment on this state Liberal government that they have not taken action to address this housing affordability crisis.


That is what the Greens are calling on them to do today by calling on my colleagues in this chamber to support this motion so that we can get the government to step up and show the leadership that we desperately need on this crisis. We cannot afford to see vulnerable South Australians being cast onto the street. We know that if you move out of a tenancy and you find yourself homeless, that can set you on a long-term path of homelessness. That is not what we want for vulnerable South Australians, and the government needs to take action.


Question: Regional Homelessness

8 June 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I welcome the opportunity to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on South Australia. It really goes without saying that we have been very lucky in our state when it comes to the impact of COVID-19. I think a lot of us reflect on that when we see what is happening over in Victoria at the moment and the regrettable situation that they face there. We are very lucky in that sense. However, whilst many of us have been lucky, this has not been a lucky time for everybody in our community. In fact, COVID-19 has exposed the growing pandemic of inequality that has been sweeping the globe over the last few decades. Really, this pandemic has shone a light on that.

In particular, I want to talk a little bit about the impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community. As my honourable colleague Tammy Franks has stated, we saw the government take action to support people who are homeless, in terms of connecting them with short-term accommodation during the pandemic. That was a welcome thing, but unfortunately we have not seen the follow-through. We have not seen the government then ensure that those people are provided long-term accommodation.

I really fear that there are people sleeping on our streets—I know there are people sleeping on our streets in the middle of this harsh winter—and that is simply not good enough for a state like South Australia. It is simply not acceptable that we have people sleeping on the street when we have so many resources at our disposal. Where is the leadership from this government to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis?

We also know, and this has been reported extensively over the last few months, that if you are somebody who is renting and you are trying to live on JobSeeker—and I say 'trying to live' because you cannot live on JobSeeker; it is woefully inadequate—you cannot find a single place that is affordable for you to rent in South Australia. If you are a single person, there is not one single property that is affordable for you to rent. I think that is an outrage.

I really would like to see some leadership from the government to deal with the rental crisis. What are they doing in terms of building more social housing? What are they doing in terms of building more public housing? What are they doing in terms of building more affordable housing? This is not something we can just push off into the never-never; it is integral to the response to this pandemic and the economic crisis that has followed. Just today, I noted a news report on the ABC, referring to homelessness services in Port Lincoln. I quote:

A homeless support service in South Australia's Port Lincoln is reluctantly calling for locals to donate tents, sleeping bags and old swags, following an increase in people seeking support in the…region.

It comes as reports of rental shortages across…SA emerge…

What on earth is happening when we have vulnerable people being forced to sleep in tents because we do not have enough accommodation available in our state and in our regional centres? That is a disgrace. That is an absolute disgrace, and we need leadership from this government to address that.

As I said before, COVID-19 has really exposed that ongoing crisis of inequality in South Australia, and it has really highlighted the potential for government to take action that changes people's lives for the better. What we need from this government is for them to embrace this opportunity to actually take the leadership that is necessary to deal with the public health crisis and also the growing crisis of inequality in South Australia, recognising that every South Australian deserves a roof over their head and a place to call home, and that that is the right of every citizen in our community, not just the wealthy few.

Whilst I support this bill and commend this bill, I call on the Marshall government to go further in terms of advocating for vulnerable South Australians and in terms of investing in the infrastructure that we need to ensure that people are not plunged into poverty as a result of this economic crisis. I note that the government has called a Code Blue to support people during the extreme weather that we are facing over the next few days, but they are announcing that measure—and of course the Greens welcome that—at a time when they have initiated brutal cuts to the homelessness sector in South Australia. We have seen cuts to Street to Home, cuts to Catherine House, cuts to the Hutt St Centre; again, a failure of leadership at a time when leadership is so desperately needed.

In terms of concluding my remarks, I make a few comments about the rollout of the vaccine to people who are homeless. You may recall that I asked the health minister in question time during our previous sitting period what the government's plan was to ensure that the vaccine was made available to people who are homeless.

He provided an explanation and stated that he was going to be dealing with support services to get the vaccine out through food trucks that already provide support to people who are homeless. It is great that something is being looked at, but we need to have more detail on that. The minister's response really threw open more questions than it did answers.

We need to know whether or not more resources are being allocated to these organisations so that they can roll out the vaccine. Are these the sorts of organisations that have been impacted by the Liberals' brutal cuts to homelessness support services? Are these organisations going to be able to ensure that a follow-up vaccine is provided to people who are homeless? What measures are in place to ensure that we can keep track of these people and ensure that they receive the second vaccine that they so desperately need?

All of these are questions that the government has failed to answer. When I asked the minister about this I received, might I say, a fairly churlish response correcting me about the size of the health department. That is not good enough. We need to see leadership from the government on these questions, and we need to see answers to these questions, so that vulnerable South Australians know that they are getting the support they desperately need during this economic crisis. I commend the bill, but I call on the government to show the leadership that we need to ensure that no South Australian is left behind.


Motion: Affordability of Renting in South Australia

12 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I will be brief. I have only been here a short time, but I worry that members may already be sick of hearing the sound of my voice this week. This motion is a timely one. It relates to the need to strengthen the protection for renters in South Australia. Last night, we saw the federal Treasurer hand down his annual budget with not a single dollar invested in social housing infrastructure—not a single dollar.

While housing has traditionally been seen as a state issue, what we need to see is leadership from the federal Liberal government to establish a range of incentives to encourage investment in social and affordable housing. There is no such investment of course, and we know that South Australia has missed out once again. In my first speech in this place last week, I spoke about the housing crisis that is gripping our state. During this one-in-100-year pandemic, in the middle of the worst economic crisis in a generation, it is vitally important that we make this a priority.

I understand that tomorrow this parliament will be dealing with a bill relating to ceasing the moratorium on evictions for people experiencing rental stress but also ceasing the rent capping for those experiencing rental stress. We need to extend those protections and ensure that vulnerable South Australians, those on the lowest incomes, those who are renting, have the protections that they need so that they are not cast out onto the street and so that they do not face eviction.

According to Anglicare Australia's 2021 rental affordability snapshot, there was not a single rental property in South Australia that a person on JobSeeker could afford—not a single one. Well, that is an absolute disgrace, and that is out of 1,788 private rental properties advertised on 26 March. Not a single property was considered affordable for a person on JobSeeker—what an outrage that is! The report also found that there were no affordable properties for those on youth allowance, with just 4 per cent of properties considered affordable for families with both parents on JobSeeker—just 4 per cent.

In South Australia, the cost of rental house prices continues to rise significantly. In Adelaide, there has been a 2.1 per cent increase over the past month, and a 7.2 per cent increase over the last year; in the Murraylands, a 3.3 per cent increase over the past month and a 10.5 per cent increase over the past year; northern SA, a 9.9 per cent increase over the past month and an 11.9 per cent increase over the past year; and, in southern SA, a 4.5 per cent increase over the past month and a 21 per cent increase over the past year. So, again, we are seeing South Australians being hard hit by spiralling rent prices. As I said in my first speech, South Australians should not be required to accept a housing system that puts private greed above the public good—it is not acceptable.

Protection of renters is not something new, and it is not something that belongs to a particular side of politics. It is worth noting that, during the Great Depression, greater protection for renters resulted in policies like rent control at a state level. At a federal level, too, the Menzies government introduced rent control in 1939. Then it was the Curtin Labor government that fixed rents at 1940 levels. You could argue that the situation we face at the moment in the middle of this economic crisis is remarkably similar to that of the 1940s, yet we have no commitment from the federal government, and the state government seems to be asleep at the wheel.

While the moratoriums on evictions will delay the pain, and the Greens are seeking to extend the moratorium due to expire at the end of the month by another 12 months, that is not the long-term solution to the rental crisis that grips our state. We need to invest in social housing and we need the state Liberal government to step up to the plate and do that, and we need to legislate for rent controls so that we can protect the most vulnerable people in our community from rent increases. It works in places like New York; why are we not doing it here in South Australia? Why are we not ensuring that everybody has a roof over their head and a place to call home? Why do we not recognise that housing is a human right in our state?

 


Cuts to Hutt St Centre and Catherine House

5 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The matter I rise to speak on this afternoon is one of real importance to South Australians who care about the most vulnerable in our community, that is, the decision to cut funding for the Hutt St Centre and Catherine House. I am deeply concerned about the implications of these cuts. I acknowledge the minister's comments earlier and the statement that they have made regarding the shifting of money, but the reality is that this is a reduction in funding for the Hutt St Centre and for Catherine House, both of which are vital services in our community.

When one considers the Hutt St Centre, I know that there are many people in our community who rely on that service and have been using it for years. Quite frankly, another service provider will struggle to offer that same level of service because they do not necessarily have the same relationships with the people involved in the community, and that is my concern with this cut.

Let us consider the implications of this. What has been proposed is a $2.4 million cut from both the Hutt St Centre and Catherine House, so that is $1.2 million each, and that could result in the loss of 31 jobs; that is, 31 jobs in sectors that are vital, that are supporting the most vulnerable people in our community in the middle of the worst economic crisis in a generation and in the middle of a one-in-100-year pandemic.

The Hutt St Centre could lose 12 staff and Catherine House, South Australia's only specialist homelessness service for women, could lose up to 19 jobs, so 31 jobs are at risk at this time. If we consider the impact that the Hutt St Centre and Catherine House have, it is very clear that this has a significant implication for vulnerable people in our state.

The Hutt St Centre serves up to 40,000 meals and offers social work and support services to nearly 2,000 people. The facilities they offer include showers, laundry facilities, visiting health professionals, an aged-care living program for their older clients and recreational activities. We know that 200 people experience homelessness each day in our state.

Catherine House is South Australia's only homelessness and recovery service for women exclusively, and 59 women are provided with safe and secure accommodation every night of the year. Again, 55,936 meals and snacks were provided during the year, and 480 essential personal product packs were provided to clients. This is an important service, and it is not one that we can afford to lose.

I also acknowledge that this has been a really challenging 12 months for the Hutt St Centre in particular. Last year, they were subject to a pointless review, led by the failed Team Adelaide faction in Town Hall, in particular by Alex Hyde, who is a staffer to Nicolle Flint. That review created a huge amount of discomfort for the Hutt St Centre, a lot of uncertainty for them during this time of crisis, and I am very disappointed that they are now being subject to more uncertainty in the middle of this crisis.

I urge the government to reconsider, to go back to the drawing board and to look at what can be done to ensure that the Hutt St Centre and Catherine House are guaranteed their funding in the future so that they do not have to lay off staff and so that they do not have to cut the vital services that we know so many South Australians rely on.