The State and Federal Governments have been aware of the housing and homelessness crisis we face for years, and to date have no meaningful plan or funding to end it.
Even at the local government level, there is so much more we can and should be doing.
Even though Maslow was a massive misogynist, we can still take his work and use it for good. We use the tools we’re given, right? Basic physiological needs come before everything else- shelter, food, warmth, water and rest.
Fixing housing for Tasmanians comes before forestry issues, before pokies, before building new prisons, and before everything else. Because if you don’t have somewhere safe, secure, affordable and appropriate for your needs to live, nothing else matters.
Here's some of the things I've done on housing and homelessness with my first term on Council:
- I put a motion that HCC recognises we are in a homelessness and housing crisis, host a roundtable between all levels of government, NGOs, service providers and people with lived experience, and establish the Greater Hobart Homelessness Alliance (passed).
- I worked with Andrew Wilkie and Jacqui Lambie to have Tasmania’s federal housing debt removed- something the federal housing minister at the time said would be impossible. Lambie and Wilkie were not aware of this matter as a blockage to more public and social housing developments for Tasmania, and both, but most notably Lambie, did deals with the federal government to secure the removal of Tasmania’s historic public housing debt, freeing up millions to be spent on new developments.
- Service providers credit this advocacy work for the additional $5M in funding for housing and homelessness services provided that year.
- Co-chairing the Housing With Dignity lived experience homelessness group (first with community co-chair Kate Kelly, then with Grace Morgan, now with Warren Bourke- some of the best people I’ve been privileged to meet and get to know quite well personally through my work on council).
- Member of Health With Dignity- a group established by Warren Bourke (Housing With Dignity co-chair) to pay for homeless people to see a GP. We successfully applied for a grant from the Hobart Airport, which means people can see a GP for free, and receive the Medicare benefit payment as a refund to their own account, meaning they can purchase prescriptions as needed (ongoing).
- Lobbied for council space to be used for housing and homelessness services (YouthARC was the original site for Safe Night Space, the council parking deck is now utilised by Orange Sky Laundry, and council is investigating with NGOs the use of the Hockey Centre as a social/public housing development site).
- Lobbied for HCC’s homelessness policy to be adopted by the Local Government Association and therefore all councils in Tasmania (passed). This is basically that we let people who have nowhere else to go occupy public spaces and refer them to services, rather than “moving them on”.
- I put a motion that we limit short stay accommodation conversions of whole homes in Hobart local government area, and that we get an amendment up on the planning scheme that enables us to do this (passed).
- Spoke at the United Nations about making housing a human right, and one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Lots of knock-on effects for this one, particularly given HCC has adopted the SDGs as overarching all of our strategic plans.
- Worked with the Institute of Global Homelessness and got several experts in to brief the GHHA on world-leading best practice for ending homelessness, looking at case studies from cities that are leading in this space.
There's a lot more work to be done, namely:
- Inclusionary zoning. This is where we mandate that a percentage of new developments are "affordable" housing. "Affordable" means that it would cost a person on a minimum wage no more than 30% of their income per week.
- Overhauling short stay accommodation permits. Once you have a permit, you have it for life. That doesn't allow for future planning at all. Research shows that 47% of homes on platforms like AirBnB have a long term rental history. That's a massive reduction in an already extremely tight rental market.
- Working with service providers to utilise council-owned land better-- we have assets, like the land around the Hockey Centre, which are perfectly suited to medium-density developments.
- Having a more cohesive and compassionate approach to homelessness. I think we spend far too much on fancy, catered events for wealthy people, and nowhere near enough on actually providing any sort of real help to people sleeping rough. We should be leading by example, not by having nice flags and posters telling everybody about the great work we're doing. Why not feed some people?
There's a lot more that I will keep adding to this as I go, watch this space. Housing and homelessness is something I'm really passionate about, and I'd adore another term so I can keep pushing for change.