Doorstop Interview – Corrimal – Tuesday 16 November 2021


SUBJECTS: Housing crisis in the Illawarra; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: It’s great to be here in Corrimal with Michele, with Sharon and with Stephen, looking at this new affordable housing complex here in the heart of town. This housing is amazing and we need a lot more of it. If Labor wins the next federal election, we’ll build 30,000 homes just like this in the next five years, right across the country, providing more safe and secure housing for Aussies who desperately need it, young local families and frontline workers. I’ve just had the chance to talk to Michele about some of the great families that are moving in here. 

The cost of housing here is going through the roof. There was a time when it was just ridiculously expensive in Sydney to buy a home but it was affordable in the regions. That’s not the case anymore. The cost of housing here in the Illawarra has gone through the roof in the last four months. Right across the country, the cost of buying a house has jumped by 20 per cent this year. This year, the cost of housing in the Illawarra has jumped by around about 30 per cent. In Kembla Grange the cost of housing has jumped by over 50 per cent, in Bulli it’s about 44 per cent. That’s putting housing beyond the reach of a lot of young people here in the Illawarra. If you don’t have help from mum and dad, it’s all but impossible, and the days of being able to get in the car and travel down to the South Coast to find a safe and affordable place to live are getting beyond the reach of many Aussies. The cost housing down there as jumped by 35 per cent just in the last year. And if you’re renting, it’s no easier because the cost of rents are through the roof. Rents have gone up by five per cent in Sydney in the last year, they’ve gone up by two or three or four times that amount in the Illawarra on the South Coast. So, it’s getting harder and harder to rent. That means that there’s no money left over to save a deposit to buy a house, let alone pay the electricity bill or put food on the table. There’s a role for government in building more affordable housing for Aussies to put a roof over your head and get a great start in life. This is the perfect example of it and I want to congratulate the Housing Trust and Michele, for the work that you’re doing here, changing the lives of lots of young families here in the Illawarra. We need a lot more of it and that’s what Labor will do if we’re fortunate enough to win the next election. 

MICHELE ADAIR, CEO OF HOUSING TRUST: All 34 of these homes are rented to people who would otherwise have been homeless, or housebound. We’ve got a number of tenants here who are elderly and frail, and they were literally not able to get in and out of their homes because of stairs. We’ve built 13, four bedroom townhouses here that are wonderful for families. Kids need space and backyards and the fact that The Housing Trust has been able to deliver these homes is a wonderful example of what’s possible with the right policy levers, and the right commitments from all levels of government. But the need is desperate. And we need many, many more.

JOURNALIST: How is this helping the community having a project like this? 

ADAIR: There are 34 lives that have been changed completely. And in course, over the course of the life of things homes, they’ll still be here and looking wonderful in the next 40 years. So there’ll be hundreds of lives that have been changed. Parents who can make sure that their kids are able to get their education, older people who are able to age securely in place to be able to manage their health, none of those things are possible without a safe, secure, affordable roof over your head. And so it’s literally life changing. The challenge that we have, of course, these are 34 homes, but just in the Illawarra we need at least seven to 10,000 more of these. And so that’s why we’re calling on all levels of government and the private sector and of course not for profit organisations like Housing Trust, to be able to really face up to the problems and work together to build and acquire more homes for those heroes that have got us through the pandemic. They continue to get us through things like fires and floods now in other parts of the state, and we desperately need to look after them. The rental crisis is so bad. Without more homes like this, our governments need to decide out who it is that they’re happy to leave homeless. Because that’s the practical reality.

JOURNALIST: How have you seen the housing crisis change over the years? And how desperate is it at the moment?

ADAIR: It used to be that only people on very low to low incomes were in housing stress. But now, according to the government’s own eligibility criteria, you can be a full time qualified teacher, the director of a preschool center, an early career policeman, a real estate agent or qualified accountant and still be eligible under the governent’s means test. If nothing points to how broken the housing system it, that reality certainly does.

SHARON BIRD, MEMBER FOR CUNNINGHAM: Well, it’s fantastic to have Jason Clare our Shadow Minister for Housing here in Wollongong today. Stephen Jones and I were really keen to have him come down and talk to our local community. We’re here to see this fantastic new development here and then we’ll go and meet with a whole lot of homelessness and housing providers in a roundtable to hear their experiences. This is such a great initiative. And this is why we are so excited about Labor’s commitment to 30,000 new affordable houses just like this one. Michele tells me for this development there were 20 to 30 people applying for every single facility; every home or unit. That tells you how big that demand is. It won’t come as a surprise to anybody in our community because wherever you go, when you’re at the barbecue on the weekend, and what are people talking about? How expensive housing is, how they’re worried their kids won’t be able to get a start in our local area. And they’re worried about people, you know, who they want to employ in entry level jobs, low to middle income earners. We might find someone but they can’t find anywhere to live in our local area. These are the real problems that we’re facing. And this is a sort of solution that a federal government with some commitment and insight can actually deliver. We’ve seen nothing from Scott Morrison on this issue for those families and communities that are worried about this and so I’m really proud of Labor’s commitment. I think, I know, it’ll make a real difference in communities like ours.

JOURNALIST: And just what exactly is the aspect leading to the housing crisis at the moment?

BIRD: We all know that there are a number of factors that are at play to increase the pressure on housing crisis. They’re complex and there’s a number of them. But one of the key results of that is that we’re seeing first time buyers and people on low and middle income wages being priced out of the market. I won’t give away my age, but when I started out, it might cost you three times an annual wage to buy a house. Now, it’s more than three to four times that now. So somebody like me who was a young teacher starting out, starting a family, they’re trying to do that today in our local area. Their wages have not increased anywhere near the rate at which housing’s increased. So, we’re still seeing that real pressure happening. Now, government can intervene in providing this sort of stock and that’s what is a really important initiative locally.

STEPHEN JONES, MEMBER FOR WHITLAM: Well, house prices have gone up 27 per cent over the last 12 months alone, that’s seven per cent higher than the statewide average. It’s harder for new people getting into the market, young people are losing hope. There’s a problem with every area in the market, whether it’s social housing, whether it’s first home buyers, whether it’s people trying to get a new home for a new family, everywhere has been squeezed. Low interest rates mean that people can afford to get a bigger loan, which is pushing prices up. The government hasn’t got any solutions. We need a solution for every Australian to put a roof over every head, whether it’s homelessness, whether it’s social housing, whether it’s first home buyers, or whether it’s people trying to move out or a unit into their first home. We need a solution for every area of the market. Scott Morrison’s got nothing.

JOURNALIST: Just how do you feel as well knowing that people in their own area can’t afford to live in their area anymore?

JONES: It’s extraordinary. People who grew up in and around Wollongong used to have the dream of moving south to West Abdo, or down to Shellharbour or one of those suburbs. Those houses are exploding in prices. The places that people used to go to get an affordable house, to get their first home, are being pushed further and further out of reach. So we need more solutions. This is a part of it. It’s not the only answer. Yes, we need more social housing. We also need more affordable housing for people to get their first home or to move from a unit into a house. 


ARLEY BLACK (CLARE) 02 9790 2466