Television Interview with Scott Levi – ABC Central Coast Breakfast – Friday 29 October 2021


SUBJECTS: Housing crisis on the Central Coast.
SCOTT LEVI, HOST: Housing Affordability here on the Central Coast is a major issue. It’s one of those ones where we don’t seem to be getting much traction in the way of ideas or solutions from our leaders on the Central Coast. The median rent has jumped by a massive 15.9 per cent. Are people getting 15.9 per cent more in wages to cope with that? I don’t know. Joining us is Jason Clare who’s the Shadow Minister for Housing and who’s on the coast today, to maybe offer up a few solutions, a few alternatives. Good morning.


LEVI: Yeah, not too bad at all. Take us through some of the suburbs where the prices have jumped dramatically.

CLARE: Well, places like Bateau Bay rents gone up by about 13 per cent in the last 12 months. It’s even worse at Avoca Beach, jumped by a massive 19 per cent. In Kariong, rents gone up by 17 per cent and in North Gosford and Umina Beach by 14 per cent. Just to put that in perspective, rents have gone up in Sydney by about five per cent. So, this is triple what’s happened in Sydney, and the Central Coast has been smashed by the lockdown and everything that’s happened in the last few months, just like everywhere else. So, you’ve got people who’ve lost wages and they’ve got to pay even more rent – it means that they’re going to struggle even more to put food on the table and look after their family.

LEVI: But on the other side you’ve got landlords making a motza.

CLARE: This is the irony here that the New South Wales Government promised at the start of the lockdown that any tenant that was struggling to pay the rent, they’d have a $200 million scheme to help them pay the rent. Well, we found out yesterday that only 10 per cent of that money’s gone out to tenants. So, a $200 million dollar fund to help tenants pay the bills, only around about 20 million of that has gone out to tenants or 11 per cent of it. So, a bit of a cruel hoax there. The big promise that ‘if you struggle to pay the bills, we’ll help you out’ – it turns out that not a lot of people have been helped.

LEVI: What’s the impact of the rent going up for people on the Central Coast by 15 per cent, in some cases as you say more 19.2 per cent in some suburbs?

CLARE: Well, it just means that you’ve got less money for other things. Less money to buy food, less money to look after the family and it means that you’ve got more and more families on the Coast reaching out to charities asking for help. One of the organisations I’m going to catch up with this morning is Uniting Church. They run the Doorways programme here. They tell me, as you’d expect, that they’re busier than ever. People are struggling. If your wages are down and your rent is up, then something’s going to break and it breaks communities like the Central Coast.

LEVI: This is an issue for the state government and the federal government. They’ve acknowledged that this is a problem. They’re doing things in this space to rectify it aren’t they?

CLARE: Well, not enough. Part of the problem is rents are up. The other part of the problem for young people trying to break into the housing market and buy a home is that the cost of buying is up. We saw yesterday, nationwide, that house prices have jumped 20 per cent. But on the Central Coast 20 per cent is a small number. There are places on the Central Coast where house prices have jumped by 30, 40, 50, even 80 per cent. In Copacabana, house prices have jumped by 85 per cent in the last 12 months. Now, if you own a home that’s fantastic, but if you’re a young person trying to buy your first home then it just makes it harder to buy a place where you grew up and stay on the Coast. It means more people are forced to rent and, as we’ve been talking about, rents are up and it means more people are looking for help from the charities.

So whatever the Government’s doing, it’s not enough. And believe it or not, Scott, yesterday after the last Question Time for the fortnight, the Government tabled a report where it’s recommending that it stop doing research into ways to fix housing affordability. Of all the crazy things that have happened this week in Parliament, it’s hard to beat that one. You don’t fix this problem by stopping doing work on ideas to turn this around.

LEVI: You don’t fix it just by talking about it either. What are some of the alternatives and what could be done?

CLARE: Well, there’s no easy fix but one of the things that you need to do is build more housing, build more affordable housing. One of the things that Labor has said we will do if we win the next election is set up something called the ‘Housing Australia Future Fund’, which will build thousands of extra homes for frontline workers. The Coast knows this better than most; lots of police, nurses, cleaners, aged care workers often have to live a long way away from work because they just can’t afford to live anywhere else. We’ve said that as part of this fund, we’d build 10,000 affordable rental homes for frontline workers across Australia, many of them would be on the Central Coast. But we also need to build more social housing, the list of people on the Coast looking for social housing grows every year. That’s not the only thing you need to do, but that’s part of it.

LEVI: How many new homes does the Central Coast need? Does the Central Coast need affordable homes? Does the Central Coast need to give people a chance to either break into the property market because the Australian dream has become the Australian nightmare for most kids, the sums just don’t add up, do they?

CLARE: I wouldn’t hazard to put a number on it, but the short answer is more. We need to build more housing. Supply as part of the problem; that’s not the only thing we need to do to fix this problem, but we do need to build more housing. And the Government can’t wipe its hands and just say this is just a job for the private sector, it’s got to help out too. The problem here, Scott, is that the federal government says it’s just the state government’s fault, state government say it’s the federal government’s fault, then they blame local government. If you’re going to fix this, you need the federal government, state government and local government all working together. All investing in building more affordable housing and helping the private sector to build more too.

LEVI: Well, it’s certainly going up the CBD’s but most of it is private. Thanks for joining us on the programme and enjoy your tour of the Central Coast today.

CLARE: Thanks mate.