Broad policy reforms are needed to properly address Queensland’s ongoing housing crisis and help those most in need, a government expert has told a Griffith University symposium.
Speaking at the 2018 Affordable Housing Symposium in Brisbane, Ms Trish Woolley, the Deputy Director-General of Housing, Homelessness and Sport in the Department of Housing and Public Works, said community consultation will be a key step in ascertaining legislative areas in need of the most pressing attention.
The consultation period, which started in October, runs through to the end of November, and “will likely end up telling us a lot about what needs reforming in the residential tenancy laws,” Ms Woolley said.
“That’s its public point and purpose, but it’s actually going to tell us a lot about the housing needs and aspirations of Queenslanders, which is something that we’re quite excited about.”
Queensland’s housing situation has seen an increase in the number of renters over the past several years, and it now possesses the highest proportion of renters of any Australian state.
According to Ms Woolley, more than a third (34 per cent) of Queenslanders are living in rental homes in both private and social housing.
Of those, 42 per cent are families, and 43 per cent have been renting for more than a decade. People over 55 make up the fastest-growing age group of tenants, while renters are also contending with a lack of security and tenure; the average tenancy is about 16 months, with half of current tenants living under a 12-month lease.
“In terms of housing affordability, we know that people on moderate incomes, including key workers, are finding it harder to find affordable accommodation close to where they work,” Ms Woolley added.
“We know that across the state this situation looks different, impacted by local economies and differences within the housing market, and there’s some work the Department’s doing at the moment to better understand that picture in a Queensland context.”
As part of that work, in June last year, the Queensland government released the Queensland Housing Strategy, a 10-year strategic plan for the provision of housing services in the state.
“That strategy has a very pragmatic objective: that every Queenslander has access to a safe, secure and affordable home that meets their needs and enables participation in the social and economic life of our prosperous state,” Ms Woolley said.
Built around four pillars — growth, prosperity, connections and confidence, the QHS “seeks to actively work across all parts of the housing system”, she said, and place the focus back on the human element at the core of the issue.
“It’s about people, it’s about Queenslanders and it’s about ensuring that they have a housing outcome which enables their participation in social and economic life,” Ms Woolley said of the strategy.
“We think that having a better understanding of the people we house, the people we support, and their aspirations, that that will have a key role in delivering better housing outcomes right across the continuum.
“It sounds simple and intuitive, but for a housing authority, for a big government agency that manages over 53,000 properties across a diverse state, it can be easy to become really transactional and rules-bound.”
“People are at the centre of our work; understanding who it is that we need to support right across the continuum, their circumstances, and getting better information to match their housing products and services to meet their needs is really critical to our work,” she continued.
“One thing I think we all know is that we need to do something different; and if we’re going to be responsive and person-centred, we need to change the way we do things.”
Issues for the industry, owners and tenants — including security, tenure, privacy, rent increases and pet allowances — featured highly on the symposium’s agenda, which also saw presentations from academics and stakeholders vested in the prosperity and equitability of the state’s housing market.
Symposium convenors Professor Eduardo Roca, Associate Professor Richard Chung and Dr Benjamin Liu said the event had been a great success, with keen insight into, and exploration of, one of the country’s most urgent social issues.
“Today’s discussions explored issues such as sustainability, policy strategies for government and industry, and other economic and social dimensions of this complex, evolving problem,” Professors Roca and Chung said.
“On behalf of the symposium’s organising committee, we would like to extend our sincerest thanks to our excellent speakers and high-quality attendees for their contributions to our lively discussions.”
Alongside Ms Woolley, the symposium — which was held at the Mercure Pullman King George Square earlier this month — heard from the likes of Professor George Earl, Griffith Business School Dean (Academic) Professor Fabrizio Carmignani, and National Affordable Housing Consortium CEO Mike Myers.
They were joined by Michael Zorbas of the Property Council of Australia, JLL’s Mr David Rees, Griffith academicsProfessor Mark BrimbleandAssociate Professor Leigh Shutter, UNSW Professor Hal Pawson, Port Phillip Council member Gary Spivak, and industry representatives Nils Miller (Investec), Ryan Rathborne (Clean Energy Finance Corp) and Chris Menz (Commercial & General).