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Letter to the Minister for Housing

16 June 2023

Hon Meaghan Scanlon, Minister for Housing, via email: [email protected]

Making sure every Queensland has a safe place to call home

Dear Minister Scanlon,

Congratulations on your appointment as Queensland's Minister for Housing. I look forward to working with you to end Queensland’s housing crisis, and building a state where everyone, regardless of background or income, has a safe, secure, affordable place to call home. 

I am writing to share with you the body of initiatives that the Greens have proposed to tackle the housing crisis. These initiatives are based on policies and legislation already working well in other parts of the world, which would make a meaningful difference to Queenslanders. 

25,000 new public homes annually

The state government needs to urgently expand direct capital funding for public housing. The Pawson reports estimates that:

“even to simply keep pace with social housing need newly arising over the next 20 years (54,000 households) would call for the net addition of some 2,700 social rental dwellings annually. This is a significantly higher ask than the average annual number of social and affordable rental dwellings –1,300 – expected to be built over the next ten years under existing Queensland Government financial commitments”.

QCOSS have called for at least 6,000 new social and affordable homes each year, in addition to 5,000 homes funded in Queensland by the Commonwealth. QCOSS have also called for the Housing Investment Fund to be expanded by an additional $2 billion, and an additional $1 billion in capital investment.

Given the scale of the crisis, we think even a doubling of planned new builds is insufficient. We think the government needs to invest in at least 25,000 new public homes a year to house the 50,000 people on the social housing waiting list over the next two years, and ensure every Queenslander has an affordable and secure roof over their head. This should include:

  • Direct capital investment in new public homes
  • Inclusionary zoning, to ensure that 25% of all new developments are allocated as public housing
  • Direct capital grants to community housing providers
  • Direct capital grants for Queensland’s 64 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Housing Organisations, for maintenance and new construction
  • Purchase of all NRAS properties in Queensland

Funding frontline and peak bodies

Funding for frontline housing services, such as Micah Projects, HART4000, Brisbane Youth Service, and others, and peak bodies such as the Alliance of Manufactured Homes Owners, Queensland Youth Housing Coalition, and others, needs to be significantly expanded, in order to support and advocate for people experiencing, or on the brink of, homelessness. At least an additional $15 million is needed for Specialist Youth Homelessness Services.

Urgent freeze on rent increases

As a renter yourself, you would know about the extreme pressures that renters are under in Queensland. Across the state, median rents have gone up by 14% over the past year. Rents on the Gold Coast have gone up by over 18%. Rents for units in Brisbane have gone up by 23.3%. I’ve heard from constituents in South Brisbane facing rent increases of up to 50%. These increases are far beyond inflation, and cannot be justified on the basis of interest rate rises, or increases in other costs. 

Limiting rent increases to once every 12 months will do nothing to halt the kinds of increases we’re seeing across the state, and in fact is having serious negative consequences for Queensland renters (see my correspondence to you dated 1 June 2023). The government needs to step in to put a two year freeze on rent increases, followed by a cap on rent increases of 2% every two years, applying to the dwelling. You can see my private members bill, Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation (Rent Freeze) Amendment Bill 2022, for how this can be implemented in Queensland. 

Empty Homes Levy

Census data suggests that there are around 87,000 homes sitting empty long-term across the state while thousands of working Queenslanders are struggling to find an affordable place to live. An Empty Homes Levy, modeled on a similar levy working successfully in Vancouver, could bring thousands of homes back into the rental market. The Greens have proposed an empty homes levy, of 5% of the capital improved value of the land, which would apply to any long-term vacant land that is suitable for housing people or reasonably able to be made suitable for housing people. Owners of investment properties who do not have a tenancy registered with the Residential Tenancies Authority will be sent a notice of assessment. If the investment property does not have a tenancy registered with the RTA, investors will have to supply evidence of occupation, pay the levy or apply for exemption if they qualify.

Inclusionary Zoning

Queensland should be taking full advantage of the huge amount of property development happening across the state, with statewide inclusionary zoning. We have proposed a model whereby developers will be required to dedicate 25% of new residential dwellings, including

apartment buildings and housing estates, as public housing. This is modeled on successful models already in place in Sydney and elsewhere. 

We welcome your comments regarding the LNP Brisbane City Council’s Plans for the Kurilpa Precinct, calling for “social and affordable outcomes”. Without a combination of inclusionary zoning to incorporate public housing, and a cap on rent increases, any new supply of housing in Kurilpa or elsewhere will not bring down housing costs, or provide affordable housing. It is also worth noting that the Kurilpa Precinct is a flood zone, and approving residential developments in this area puts people, their homes, possessions and lives at risk. You can see below where I have identified a number of sites in South Brisbane that the government should purchase to build public housing (subject to assessments, consultation and approvals). 

Limiting Airbnbs and short-term accommodation

Queensland needs to act urgently to limit short-term accommodation. In South Brisbane, and elsewhere, long-term homes are being turned into short-term hotels, taking housing out of the rental market. Queensland should:

  • Limit listings for short-term accommodation to just 90 days per year, following a model already in place in Byron Bay and elsewhere
  • Apply an Empty Homes Levy to short-term accommodation, so that short-term accommodation cannot be considered as occupation for the purposes of an Empty Homes levy

I look forward to the results of the government’s investigations into the impacts the short-term rental market is having on the state’s housing supply, and appropriate action to limit short-term accommodation in Queensland. 

Impacts of the Olympics on housing

I wrote to the previous Minister for Housing on 3 March 2023, regarding the impacts that the Olympic Games have on housing affordability in host cities. I did not receive a reply from the Minister for Housing, but rather, received a reply from the Deputy Premier. As such, I’ve included a copy of this letter below, and an overview here.

Negative effects on housing security in Olympic host cities is well documented. Brisbane, without significant government intervention now, will not be immune to these impacts. 

Documented impacts include:

  • Displacement: Between the 1980s and 2010s, Summer Olympics-related developments displaced more than two million people. In Sydney, around 300 boarding house residents were made homeless in the lead up to the Games. Displacement in LA in the lead up to their Games is already happening. Displacement is already set to happen in Brisbane, with the proposal to demolish homes for a warm-up track at Raymond Park, 
  • Upward pressure on rent and house prices: In Sydney's  “Olympic Corridor” for example, house prices increased between 13.7% to 23.6% above inflation between 1997 and 1998, far exceeding the rest of the city. Rent in these areas also increased by between 15% to 40%over the same time period. London also experienced rent increases and price-gouging and increases in housing costs in host boroughs.
  • Failure of Olympics Villages: Olympics Villages are often privatized, or not transferred into public housing. 
  • Long-term housing shifted to short-term accommodation: This phenomenon has been documented in other host cities. In South Brisbane, we have seen whole blocks turned from long-term homes to short-term accommodation. 

Identifying sites for new public housing

There are numerous sites around the South Brisbane electorate that the state government could be acquiring now, in order to build public housing. I’ve included some suggestions here, of commercial and residential properties that are currently for sale, which, subject to approvals, consultation and support for any existing commercial or residential tenants, would make great locations for public housing. Many of these were also included in my letter to the Treasurer dated 29 May 2023. 

I look forward to working with you to ensure that every Queenslander has a safe place to call home. 

Kind regards,

Amy MacMahon

Member for South Brisbane

See a PDF of this letter, with footnotes.

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