SOCIAL HOUSING STIMULUS PACKAGE
Mr GREG PIPER:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Housing. Will the Minister guarantee that the haste with which tenders are being called for proposals under the New South Wales and Commonwealth Social Housing Stimulus Package will not lead to significant inefficiency and poor housing outcomes? Will the Minister extend the period for submissions by four weeks?
Mr DAVID BORGER:
I thank the member for his question and interest in this once in a lifetime opportunity to secure jobs and investment for people in New South Wales and provide essential new housing. During the next three years, the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments will invest a little more than $3 billion to generate 9,000 units of social housing in New South Wales which will deliver up to 37,000 jobs and apprenticeships for people in New South Wales. This plan will allow 17,000 people who are currently in very difficult circumstances to get a safe and secure roof over their heads. This investment will trigger a wave of social housing construction not seen in New South Wales since the mid 1980s and is sorely needed after the former Howard Government ripped more than $1 billion worth of funding from social housing just in New South Wales when it was in government. I assure the member that the New South Wales Government is committed to using the additional funds to better integrate and salt-and-pepper social housing throughout neighbourhoods and get that housing as close as it can to shops, jobs and opportunities.
The Government will not buy or build social housing in large numbers unless they are specialised units for seniors. The Government knows that healthy communities need a good mix of residents, and while it wants to increase the amount of affordable housing in New South Wales it is also determined to encourage better, stronger functioning neighbourhoods and communities. Because the rationale behind the stimulus package is to limit the effects of the world economic downturn on the Australian economy, 75 per cent of the federally funded homes will have to be built by December 2010. If we delay tenders, then the Government will not meet those deadlines. The Government has hit the ground running because it knows it has to move quickly to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity. This Government has pulled out all stops to meet the Prime Minister's deadline—it is fast-tracking approvals and finding new and creative ways of partnering with the private sector to meet its goals.
The Government knows that to achieve these numbers in that time frame it needs to marshal the resources of the private sector too. In early March the Government called for a request for proposals from the construction industry. The Government wants to add at least 3,000 new homes for social housing by buying private land with potential small-scale developments. Since that time more than 900 companies have downloaded the proposal documents from the website and the Government has received numerous submissions. Tenders will close on 9 April. The Government has also been quick to organise a series of briefings for local building, construction and property industries in key towns and cities across New South Wales with hundreds of interested people in attendance. The sessions outlined the timeframes that the Government is working towards to allow time for the industry to plan ahead.
Because of the large scale of this project—9,000 new homes in three years—a small army of builders, architects, carpenters, brickies, plumbers, surveyors, engineers and landscapers will be needed to help build the homes. The Government will soon open a list to allow new companies to help deliver that housing. This will give the construction industry new added opportunities for work during the next few years and provide security for jobs in this tough global economic climate. Protecting jobs is the number one priority for the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments. I understand the concern of the member for Lake Macquarie to ensure decent quality affordable housing in his electorate, and the Government will do whatever it can to ensure that all electorates with high and moderate demand receive the housing they need. This is the best opportunity the Government has had to rebuild the social housing sector since Ben Chifley signed the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement in 1945.