Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (23:05): My adjournment tonight is for the Minister for Housing, Minister Wynne. Recently the federal government announced a $50 increase in fortnightly payments for the JobSeeker payment.
This increase has been proposed due to the $150 coronavirus supplement ending on 31 March. This amounts to a mere $3.60 a day—not even enough for a cup of coffee, let alone making a serious contribution to pay the rent. Victorians are already experiencing homelessness and there are those only one or two pay cheques away from being unable to afford safe and stable housing.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data state that 24 825 people were experiencing homelessness in Victoria on census night in 2016. It is expected that once COVID-19 income protections end and the bans on evictions are lifted, homelessness will rise. These coronavirus supplements staved off a new, recession-induced homelessness crisis through last year’s colder months. With the proposed permanent increase to the JobSeeker payment being so little, this is a problem that has only been deferred rather than solved.
Will the government release a road map for how it intends to accommodate the expected increase in those experiencing homelessness?
In this day and age no Victorian should be sleeping rough or forced to live in unsuitable and unstable housing. I do commend the government for their homes for the homeless initiative, which has provided over 2000 homeless Victorians with accommodation in hotels until this coming April; however, homelessness cannot be overcome purely through better management and coordination of these existing services. We also need greater financial support for those unable to work and more affordable housing. We know that many tenants who have lost incomes and sought reduced rent have only been granted deferrals, and they are building up big arrears.
The main problem is the lack of homes at rent that low-income tenants can afford. The shortfall of private rental properties that are affordable for low-income tenants grew by 54 per cent in the decade leading up to 2016. This pandemic has seen house prices increase in the outer-city suburbs and regional Victoria, where previously low-income tenants could seek more affordable housing.
We should be concerned that the federal government is considering freezing the rate at which employers contribute to superannuation. The employer contributions are legislated to increase to 12 per cent by 2025, starting with a 0.5 per cent increase this year. This could leave even more vulnerable Victorians relying on the pension to survive once they retire. There is no doubt this increases risk of our elderly population experiencing homelessness.
Nobody in Australia should have to be making choices between medication, bills, food and having a roof over their heads. Therefore the action I am asking the minister to take is: will the government release a road map for how it intends to accommodate the expected increase in those experiencing homelessness?