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Australia’s Future Cities [Australian Fabians Inc]

Australia’s Future Cities [Australian Fabians Inc]

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Published by Carl Cord
Regional development, local government and mass public transportation systems.
Australia 2050
Regional development, local government and mass public transportation systems.
Australia 2050

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Carl Cord on May 18, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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NationalAust Capital TerritoryNew South WalesQueenslandSouth AustTasmaniaVictoriaWest Australia
 Australia’s Future Cities
 Australia’s Future Cities
 Senator Kim Carr Shadow Minister for Housing, Urban Development, Local Government andTerritories Speech to the Australian Fabian SocietyNew International Bookshop ForumMelbourne , 17 May 2006 
I am pleased to be speaking at another Fabian Society forum about Labor’s policy forAustralia’s cities.It is particularly pertinent to speak here because, as I noted in November, the FabianSociety has pioneered work in the area of housing and urban development in thiscountry since the 1950s. The discussion paper I released in December last year,
 Australia’s Future Cities
, buildson that tradition. The purpose of the paper was to lay out a set of policy options and seek feedback tohelp us develop concrete policies to take to the ALP National Conference in April 2007and then to the Federal Election.Labor has an integrated approach to housing and urban development issues. However,tonight I am going to focus on housing and on social and infrastructure issues. I am, of course, happy to take questions on other areas.
Housing and homelessness
Our fundamental approach assumes Australia is facing an acute housing shortage andwhile the Government concentrates on the demand side, it has nothing to say about thesupply of housing, which will become increasingly important as our demographics andsocial structures continue to change.I want to start by looking at what’s happening on the streets of Melbourne tonight. Atwhat’s happening on the streets of all our cities. And what’s happening behind closeddoors.What I’m talking about is homelessness.What I’m talking about is 100,000 Australians who will be without a secure roof over
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their heads tonight. 14,000 will have no roof at all. Another 14,000 will stay in sheltersand refuges. 23,000 are living in insecure boarding houses and 49,000 are basicallycouch-surfing – staying with friends and relatives.Around Victoria more than 5,000 people will be crowding into our over-stretchedshelters and refuges. About the same number will be turned away to fend forthemselves. More than 1,800 of them will end up sleeping under the stars, including 700in Melbourne.But there are also 8,000 couch-surfers and 5,000 plus boarding house residents inVictoria tonight. Not seen and seldom heard, they explain why Australians, when asked,think the national homelessness figure is only around 20,000 – one fifth of its actualsize.In Melbourne, the hidden homeless bring the total to 14,000. And the story of homelessness is the same, if not worse, in our other capital cities, with around:15,500 homeless in Sydney;7,700 in Brisbane;4,800 in Adelaide;5,600 in Perth;1,100 in Hobart;1,200 in Canberra; and2,700 in Darwin.How does it come to this in a country as wealthy as Australia? And how does ourcommunity allow the problem continue to grow?We know the causes of homelessness are complex. Domestic violence, for example,is the leading cause. So there will always be a need for some form of crisisaccommodation for Australia’s homeless.Such services must be properly funded and supported.But part of the problem is that when homeless families get into crisis accommodation,they are now staying for longer – unable to move on because there simply is nohousing available.Public housing stocks around the country have been falling for the last decade –although this is less marked in Victoria, which is one of only two states in which actualstock numbers are higher than in 1995-96. Nevertheless, even here, the proportion of total stock that is accounted for by public housing has dropped.Our housing authorities are basically broke. Our public housing stock is obsolete and isneither sufficient nor appropriate to meet demand.What does this mean in practice? I’ll give you the example of the South Australianhousing authority. Each year, it receives $67 million under the Commonwealth StateHousing Agreement. And then it pays the Commonwealth $65 million in debtrepayments. The average age of its stock is 44 years. More than half of this is threebedroom homes, but 58 per cent of tenants and 67 per cent of applicants are singlepeople. The result of all this is that the authority has been forced to reduce its stock from over58,000 to less than 47,000 in an effort to stay afloat and to update its properties. Whatwe are seeing is that joint venture redevelopments of estates almost always result in anet loss of public housing.Meanwhile, vacancy rates in the private rental market have also fallen over recentyears, down to 2.1 per cent in Victoria last December. Anything below 3 per centindicates a tight rental market.As a result, over the past five years, real rents (that is, adjusted for inflation) have
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increased by over 8.4 per cent in Melbourne. In regional Victoria there has been astaggering 21.4 per cent increase.Academics say that Australia would need another 138,000 affordable properties to liftlow-income private renters out of housing stress. But the rental properties that areactually being built are at the high end of the market. In this city, only 5.4 per cent of one bedroom apartments are actually affordable for someone on Newstart allowance.I argue that the evidence is clear. The bricks and mortar issues of housing aresomething that we must address. And the national government must play its part. Traditionally, it has been the Commonwealth that has provided the bulk of funding forpublic housing. But this mob have passed the buck – cutting CSHA funding by30 per cent in real terms and pushing states and territories into targeting policies thathave turned out to be both financially and socially disastrous.We must reverse this trend and get more affordable housing stock on the ground –through public housing and also through innovative partnership arrangements with thecommunity and private sectors.Instead, the Coalition is content to sit back and let the market – which is plagued withfailures in this area – simply take its course.
Tackling urban sustainability
Labor’s approach also emphasises the need for a dramatic expansion in theCommonwealth’s role in the management of Australian cities: in planning for the future.We argue that this is desperately needed for three reasons: (1) economic efficiency;(2) social equity; and (3) environmental prudence.Almost 80 per cent of Australians live in our cities and towns. In 25 years, 20 million of the projected 25 million of us will live in urbanised areas of over 100,000 population.More will live on the coast than ever before, but some inland regional centres will alsogrow. The liveability of our cities and towns a major contributor to our quality of life. It is alsoone of Australia’s great advantages in competing for skills and investment in a globaleconomy. Yet the Coalition Government has no Minister for urban development and no plan forthe future of our cities.Even after its own backbenchers signed off last year on a report into SustainableCities, which recommended significant investment in urban development, Australia’scities were completely ignored in last week’s Budget.Despite a massive surplus, the Coalition chose not to invest a single dollar in urbanpublic transport in our outer suburbs or in urban water management.And they chose not to put a single cent into addressing concentrations of poverty inour cities.I beg to differ about this approach. Labor believes that national leadership is needed if we are to ensure the liveability of our cities into the future.
Challenging poverty in our suburbs
As I’ve already indicated, Labor’s central concern is urban sustainability, but it is adefinition of sustainability that looks not just at environmental issues but also the socialand economic health of the cities.As part of this, we must address the concentrations of poverty that plague our majorcities and regional towns.
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