The latest data release from Communities Tasmania shows that finding a house in the private rental market is just a dream for most. This means more and more people stranded on the public housing list – around 4,500 households – waiting close to two years before they are offered a home.
“The most frightening statistic is that about 440 of households the list do not have ‘secure’ housing while they wait. They are effectively homeless, forced to couch-surf, sleep in a friend’s garage, spare room or caravan; or worse in tents, cars or on a park bench,” Ms Johnston said.
“Imagine you and your children living like that for two long years.”
Ms Johnston said that the Tenants’ Union recently found that there could be around 2,000 homes empty in Tasmania right now. The new Housing Minister, Guy Barnett, must do what his predecessors have failed to do and find ways to release these vacant homes, and those tied up in the short-stay market, back into the private rental pool.
It could include common sense measures like limiting short-stay to rooms in the owner’s principal place of residence, or an empty house tax to incentivise owners to either sell or rent their empty homes. These types of initiatives have been adopted in cities as diverse as Vancouver and Melbourne where homes left empty for more than six months without a reasonable excuse are taxed one per cent of the value of the property.
“Make no mistake, this housing crisis is not just a problem for those on welfare or low incomes. It is also a problem for many tenants who would normally be in private rentals and thought of as comfortably off; but they too are being priced out of the market. So what do they do? They join the public housing queue.
“We live in a prosperous country but it’s hard not to get the feeling that our generation has blown it, that we are handing to our children and grandchildren a society in worse condition than when we received it.”