While the true solution to housing affordability is addressing gross under supply through new builds, typical construction takes time, the pipeline is full, and they are grappling with material shortages and inflated costs given the peak demand.
The housing affordability issue, especially in the rental market, is so dire that we cannot wait for new stock to arrive. We should not be going into this winter with Tasmanians who are, or have the potential to be, great tenants struggling to find and keep a home.
We need bright ideas and people to come together to decide on immediate solutions that can deliver shelter now. We need to dampen the urgency and volume of those seeking a home to buy us time. To do that we need innovation, problem-solving, generosity and collaboration.
We need people knowing that for the next 12 months, at least, that they will have a roof over their head, even if their living quarters are temporary and not picture perfect. By reducing the number of people competing for a home as their immediate need for shelter has been met, some of the heat will be taken out of the rental market, which is essential if we are to see prices at least stabilise. Every option should be explored to meet the need for immediate shelter.
In the rental sphere, many landlords are nervous about making their property available for rent given the risk of another moratorium and the ever-present fear of significant property damage. If the government provided a targeted program that guaranteed that landlords would not be left out of pocket due to rent arrears, damage or neglect, more rental owners and short-stay providers would have the assurance they needed to provide their property for rent. Expanding the exemptions for land tax should also be considered to further incentivise properties to be offered for rent, especially at below market rates.
The introduction of a pet bond would go a long way in risk management for landlords, recognising that the damage caused by animals frequently outweighs any bond that may be held and the tendency for some tenants to skip their responsibilities. Introducing a lower tolerance to intentional damage and willful neglect by a tenant to a state- or privately-owned rental property would help send a clear message that homes are to be respected. Providing assurances that residential tenancy matters will be seen by the court within 14 days when a tenant refuses to leave would also prove beneficial, as too often owners have a long wait to access their property, despite a tenant’s clear wrongdoing.
Looking at housing solutions more broadly, everything should be on the table for consideration. Waiving local government permit fees for the development of new rental properties which will be rented below the median for a set period, and relaxing conditions and fast-tracking permits for temporary housing solutions is a no-brainer. UTAS making their prime K&D Warehouse site in central Hobart available for emergency housing, prioritising shelter over basketball, as well as their suite of student accommodation across the city would see many Tasmanians sheltered through the winter.
Government owned land could be made available for tiny, transportable, modular and other quick fixes homes on a short-term basis, with the government driving ingenuity of quick, temporary and relocatable government-owned shelter. A mandatory reshuffling of social housing stock so that household structures and the size and type of housing align could deliver good results, with no more single people rattling around a three-bedroom home.
The key message is that everyone who respects their home should have one and, while we push on with our typical builds, we need to shelter people in whatever ways we can and, of course, reflect on how we got to this position and commit to never being here again.