Radio Interview with Richard King and Shanna Bull – 2HD Radio – Friday 5 November 2021


SUBJECTS: Housing crisis in the Hunter; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund; shortage of housing for women and children escaping family and domestic violence; Parliamentary Inquiry into Housing Affordability; T20 cricket. 
I think we all know if you’ve been looking at the property market and I have, I recently switched from looking at houses to looking at units because the price of housing locally has gone through the roof. Somebody who will highlight that, he will be in our neck of the woods, is the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare. He’s on the line. Good morning, Jason. 
SHANNA BULL, HOST: Good morning.

BULL: Yeah. Well, thanks, Jason. First up, can you just explain to our listeners the purpose of your visit to the region today?
CLARE: I’m up in the Hunter with Meryl Swanson, talking to, amongst other organisations, I’m going to catch up with Maitland Mutual and the team there. They’ve got some ideas about what we can do to make it easier for people to buy a home, but also I’m going to be talking to some people who work with homeless Aussies in the Hunter, particularly in domestic violence refuges.  As rents go up one of the consequences of COVID is we’re seeing more and more people going into refuges. There’s not enough housing, permanent housing for people so those refuges are getting fuller and fuller by the day. I’m up in the Hunter to get a bird’s eye view of the housing crisis here which the statistics indicate is worse than in many other parts of the country.
KING: Yes and look, at the press release you put out, these figures, and excuse the expression but you didn’t pull them out of your backside. These come from CoreLogic and ANZ’s most recent monthly housing market briefing, which was this month. I mean, it’s quite alarming, the increase in rentals here locally. I mean, for instance, Swansea, almost 22 and a half per cent and that’s the medium rental increase just in the last 12 months and that’s fairly indicative of our whole area. But I mean, realistically, Jason, what can you do about it other than shine a spotlight on it?
CLARE: Just on that point first Richard, it’s important to put that number in perspective. Rents have gone up by five per cent in Sydney in the last 12 months, and in Swansea 22 per cent. That’s more than four times. They’ve gone up by 15 per cent in Newcastle, that’s three times as much as Sydney. Mannering Park 18 per cent, New Lambton 17 per cent, Broadmeadow 12.8 per cent. So what you’re seeing in the Hunter is rents are skyrocketing by three or four times as much as they are in Sydney. One of the reasons for that is people leaving Sydney and Melbourne to head to the regions because of COVID. Some of that will be permanent, some of that will be temporary, but I tell you, one of the things we desperately need to do is build more housing, build more affordable housing. The Federal Government normally says, “look, that’s the job of the state government or the local government”. I think they’re wrong. I think if we’re going to do something serious to tackle this housing crisis, then the Federal Government need to invest in building more housing as well.
BULL: And obviously making it really difficult for a lot of young people to even get into the housing market Jason.
CLARE: Yeah, that’s right. House prices are through the roof as well. They’ve gone up 20 per cent in the last year, right across the country, but they’ve gone up by almost 30 per cent in the Hunter. So if you own a home, that’s great. But if your kids don’t and they’re in the market looking to buy a place, then it’s making it harder and harder to buy and means a lot of young people are thinking, ‘can I buy in the Hunter or do I need to move further away?’.
KING: Right, but again Jason, other than shining a spotlight on it, what realistically can be done?
CLARE: There is no easy fix to this, but the guys at Maitland Mutual have got some ideas, that’s why they said ‘come up, Jason and let’s have a chat about this’. We’ve got to look at ways where we can make it easier for people to buy a home. Young people, like the people I just spoke about who grew up in the Hunter and are now finding it impossible to buy, but also older Australians. Richard, the fastest growing group of homeless Aussies are older women in their 50s and 60s, often people who might get divorced at middle age and the husband has enough money with what’s left over from selling the family home and their job to be able to get another mortgage. The wife doesn’t, and so she ends up renting, spending that money from the divorce on rent and retiring in poverty. This is a complicated issue with a lot of people who are finding it really difficult to get into the housing market and I think the Federal Government can play a more constructive role here.
BULL: You mentioned you’ll be at Carrie’s Place also later today. Will you be lobbying for more funding for refuges like these?
CLARE: We need to do two things; more funding for refuges and Federal Labor Anthony Albanese has said we would put an extra 100 million dollars into building more refuges that are full right across the country. They tell me that it hasn’t been this full in 30 years. But we have to do more than that. We also have to build the transitional accommodation where women and kids go to after a refuge and the permanent accommodation. You’ve got a blockage there where refuges are full and there’s not enough housing to go to. So, one of the things we’ve also said we would do if we win the next election is set up a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund. That’s a fund, $10 billion worth, that’s invested and the dividend from it helps to build social and affordable housing year after year. Part of that would be the construction of 4000 homes for women and kids fleeing domestic violence now. That would be the biggest investment by the Federal Government, in housing for women and kids fleeing domestic violence, ever, so a significant investment and that’s what I want to talk to the team about today.
KING: Right. Look, earlier in the week, Ken Morrison, who’s the Chief Executive with the Property Council was giving evidence to the Federal Parliamentary Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue. He said that new federal, and he’s described them as ‘housing supply deals’, could help ease housing affordability pressures. He said that, under these deals, federal and state infrastructure funding can be added to the industry’s own contributions to clear out, quote, “the infrastructure and planning log jams to deliver housing community needs”. He said, quote, “housing affordability is a nationwide concern and while most of the levers to address this sit with state and local governments”. As you said, the federal government can be a bigger part of the solution. Do you fully follow what he talks about? Do you think it’s a good idea?
CLARE: I think he’s right, supply is part of the problem. We’ve got to make sure that there’s more land available to develop housing on, whether that’s Commonwealth land or state land or private land. It’s not the only thing we need to do but it’s part of it. Part of the problem here that I think Ken’s talking about is the federal government and state government don’t talk to each other about this. Believe it or not, there isn’t a meeting that happens regularly of the Federal Housing Minister, and the State Housing Ministers around the country. That in my mind is unbelievable. One of the first things that we would fix if we win the next election.
KING: Yeah. Look, I mentioned last year I was in the property market, I ended up buying a unit because I thought that the price of housing lately, as you highlight, is just going through the roof. But again, it all depends on, as you said, supply and demand, and also to what the pandemic has highlighted is the fact that you could work for a company in Sydney. But you don’t have to live in Sydney, you could live anywhere, basically. I mean, in a sense, a property’s simply worth what somebody wants to pay for it. So, it’s very difficult to keep a handle on prices when they’re going through the roof as they are at the moment.
CLARE: This is not an easy thing to fix. But it does require a bit of leadership from Canberra, not just wiping their hands of it and saying this is a problem for the state government. We had the extraordinary case last week, Richard, where a report was tabled in the Parliament, recommending to the federal government, this is a report done for the Government on their big housing organisation called NHFIC, the report recommended that the Commonwealth Government stopped doing any research into housing affordability. That is 180 degrees the wrong way to go here. We should be having people in Canberra, the Federal Government, looking at ways to try to tackle this problem, make it easier to buy, make it easier to rent, reduce the number of homeless Aussies in the Hunter and around the rest of the country. At the moment, we’ve got a Commonwealth Government that’s not doing enough. The fact is, mate, you would know, this is true. Twenty years ago, the average home was four times average income, now it’s almost double that and that makes it harder for you to buy. It makes it harder for everybody looking in a shop window or real estate window today or on the internet thinking about where their dream home might be. They shudder at the cost.
BULL: Now just changing the subject, Jason, I heard you’re a bit of a cricket tragic. A great win by the Aussies against Bangladesh in the T20 overnight. No doubt you’d be hoping they can back it up against the West Indies tomorrow.
CLARE: Yeah, about time, you know, the boys haven’t had too much to celebrate recently. So that’s a great victory and onwards and upwards I say.
KING: Alright, thank you very much for your time this morning. And yeah, I’d be interested to hear what comes out of those discussions you have with Maitland Mutual as you said, you think they’ve got some pretty good ideas. I’d be interested to hear about that.
CLARE: Terrific. I would love to be back on the program. Thanks for having me on.
KING: Enjoy your time in our neck of the woods this morning or today and have a great weekend. Jason Clare, Shadow Housing Minister federal and also the Shadow Minister for Homelessness and Member for Blaxland, in our neck of the woods today, banging the drum about the cost of housing. Boy oh boy, I mean I really feel for young couples who are trying to get into the housing market.
BULL: So do I. Very difficult.