Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (11:11):Thanks very much for having me follow that! I rise to speak on Mr Davis’s motion today. Through my participation in the inquiry into homelessness in Victoria I understand that homelessness is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects a wide array of individuals from many different backgrounds.
This inquiry explores the root causes of homelessness and how they can be addressed. As a community it is important that we continue to work together to identify potential policies, practices and methods to assist those experiencing homelessness as well as ways to prevent individuals from becoming homeless. This begins with recognising the crippling effect the increased price of rents has had on the stability of low-income tenants.
While across Victoria on any given night there are approximately 1100 people sleeping rough, homelessness encompasses the suffering of many that are not always visible. Homelessness includes more than those who are sleeping rough; it also includes those with inadequate housing or with short-term and unstable housing arrangements. That is why I was very pleased to see the government announce the Big Housing Build, which endeavours to provide over 12 500 social housing properties across 75 councils. This will be a 10 per cent increase in social housing properties in Victoria. Doing this right is absolutely critical for the tens of thousands of Victorians who do not have access to safe and stable housing. That is why the government is streamlining this process. I believe this is a matter of urgency, and therefore I will not be supporting the opposition’s motion today.
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Given the scale and the importance of the Big Housing Build, we need these houses built quickly and we need them now, and we need those suffering from homelessness to be off the streets and under a roof as soon as possible. However, this project has already experienced delays of up to 300 days—nearly a year. If we are to have these homes built by the end of 2023 to 2024, we cannot afford to indulge all those who have objections to public housing being built in their community. We cannot pick our neighbours; the nimby argument does not cut it. However, we can choose to support those most vulnerable by providing them with the most basic of human rights—a roof over their head, stability and independence. Issues like homelessness not only require new policies and funding, they also require an open discussion that breaks the stigma around the issue and reveal the real problems that cause homelessness rather than focusing on the stereotype of a man lying in the street.
I cannot emphasise enough that this housing cannot be provided too soon. Social housing provides much-needed support for women fleeing domestic violence, those who have lost their jobs as well as many who suffer from mental health issues and alcohol and drug abuse. Ten per cent of these homes will be targeted for Aboriginal households, 2000 will be targeted for renters suffering from mental illness and 1000 will be targeted for victims of family violence.
I have no doubt that this housing will reduce suffering in our community as well as provide individuals with the support they need so they can start to look after themselves. As you can imagine, going from your friend’s couch to a job interview is unlikely to reap a good result. However, providing individuals with safe, affordable housing allows them to focus on goals such as finding a job, improving their mental health and overcoming their addictions. This will benefit all Victorians.
These homes, built as part of the Big Housing Build, will meet all building guidelines as well as have a 7-star efficiency rating. There will be more comprehensive checks and balances for developments of over 100 units or over three storeys high.
As they will require approval from the Victorian architects authority, the final dispute resolution is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. Not only that, but the government also has increased the consulting requirements from two weeks to three. I am satisfied that this project is meeting all the important building requirements while balancing the need for stakeholder consultation. This project will invest in jobs for many Victorians, with a clear focus on regional Victoria: 25 per cent of these properties will be built in regional areas. I support the government’s decision to streamline this process. To me this is a no-brainer. We need high-quality, affordable housing available today. This is why I will not be supporting Mr Davis’s motion today.