This week Rod spoke in support of the Motion for an Inquiry into the Heritage and Protection process.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (16:50): I will just skip through what everybody already raised, which were very important points that I wanted to raise before, and I will just concentrate on vulnerable Victorians. As many of us know, homelessness affects a wide range of individuals from various circumstances and backgrounds. Homelessness does not just refer to those sleeping rough on our streets. It includes those living in inadequate and unstable housing. I find it completely outrageous that so many Victorians are struggling or unable to find safe and secure housing on a day-to-day basis these days. As a community we need to work together and find a plausible solution to overcome this. Ultimately the solution comes down to housing and to affordability.
To get individuals and their families into safe and affordable housing we have to address the issues at two levels: additional social housing and increased availability of affordable housing. ‘Social housing’ refers to accommodation available to Victorians experiencing homelessness, escaping family violence, with a disability or who urgently need to move for health reasons. It also includes Victorians who have very low household income and who are on the brink of homelessness and are unable to afford the rent. The purpose of social housing is to get these individuals and families off the streets and into the safety of their own home.
My time on the homelessness inquiry has taught me that social housing has to be available where the problem exists. It is all well and good to have the majority of social housing in the city, but you cannot expect someone from rural Victoria to uproot their life, their support networks and their children from their normal routine. As a result, many of these families end up sleeping in their cars or at local camping sites. Ensuring that affordable residential zones and social housing are available in areas where the community need them is a must. That being said, it is all clear that Victoria is in desperate need of affordable housing in areas suited to our local communities. As I mentioned, additional social housing is important and essential, but it is not a permanent and nor is it a long-term solution.
Affordable housing is the long-term solution. It means that those whose income typically does not meet the high market costs of the areas they live and work in are able to live there. It means that those who are now on low to moderate incomes can comfortably afford the rent. It means that the cost of purchasing property is not fanciful or a dream but reasonable and realistic. We now have generations who can no longer afford to purchase their own home when prices are so astronomical that ordinary working people cannot even dream of affording one.
Rent prices have nearly doubled in the last decade. In regional Victoria rent prices have soared from $185 per week to $330 and for those in Melbourne from $260 to in excess of $400, yet in that same period wage growth fell for low-income households and the pressures of the cost of living have become greater than ever before. If you work in the gig economy or in insecure work, it is clear that you are living from pay cheque to pay cheque. As a community we know that there are people struggling on a day-to-day basis, but in reality do we notice them? Do we actively know who is on the brink of homelessness or on the brink of defaulting on their mortgage or even being able to pay their rent? The fact is many Victorians are one pay cheque away from homelessness. If we are ever going to make a positive change to protect our history, to protect our environment and to protect our most vulnerable members of society, we need to inquire into these topics. Therefore it is no surprise that I will be supporting this motion.