This anti-poverty week, as in past years, we’ll see politicians from the major parties attending charity fundraisers and having their photographs taken at soup kitchens, conveniently forgetting, it seems, that it was their policies that led to the poverty crisis many people are currently experiencing.
The lack of affordable housing underpins much of the poverty in our community. It’s as simple as that.
Sydney is facing a severe housing affordability crisis. Many families and individuals struggle to afford housing that is suitable, safe and secure, in areas close to their work and social contacts. Many others are struggling to find any affordable or suitable housing anywhere.
Labor left a disgraceful $300 million backlog in public housing maintenance and sold up to 1000 homes per year to address the lack of investment in public housing. The Liberal government is now selling hundreds of millions of dollars of public housing and the repairs backlog has hardly changed.
The effects on vulnerable people in our community have been devastating. Inadequate housing is the root cause of poverty in much of NSW.
Worst record in Australia
I regularly see homeless people who have been on waiting lists for years desperately seeking accommodation. In NSW there are over 100,000 waiting for public housing in NSW, the longest waiting list of all states in Australia.
If most people could see the state of these properties they would be absolutely disgusted and appalled. This huge maintenance backlog, and the currently shambolic maintenance programs for public housing, means demolition by neglect for assets owned by the people of NSW.
It’s distressing to hear about and completely unacceptable that in a one of the richest cities in the world, we have people living in poverty of this kind.
My office receives dozens of calls each week – sometimes each day – from public housing tenants who are being forced to live in almost Dickensian housing conditions. I regularly speak to people who are living with appalling damp, collapsed roofs, rat infestations, flooding, mould and holes in their ceilings.
The most vulnerable people in our society – the elderly and people living with disabilities – have been let down by successive governments to the point where they are living in miserable conditions in homes that are quite literally falling down.
Underfunding basic maintenance only leads to greater future costs as small problems grow into significant structural faults. This backlog is financially irresponsible and places huge pressure on tenants.
The maintenance program is a shambles. It's underfunded and disorganised.
Time for action
I call on the Baird government to protect these important assets and invest in basic maintenance to prevent escalating costs and to support tenants who are living in unacceptable conditions.