A mother of four facing homelessness who reached out to the state government for assistance through a handwritten letter has been advised by Housing Minister Roger Jaensch to call the 1800 number for Housing Connect.
Nikki Russell, and her four children aged between 10 and eighteen months, were until recently living in a shed and are now housed in an emergency accommodation shelter. In two weeks, however, they will have nowhere else to go.
"I'm writing to you in the hope that you can hear my voice and please find it in your hearts to help me and my family," Ms Russell's letter, which was sent to both Premier Will Hodgman and Labor leader Rebecca White, said.
"I am currently on the Housing Tasmania priority list, but have had no luck even though I call a few times a week to see if there is anything available.
"Your political help on this matter would be wonderful and welcome as you are my last hope."
Ms Russell's letter outlined the impact insecure housing had on her children, including her 10 year old son being diagnosed with depression/anxiety disorder.
"He always had a really outgoing and bubbly personality but now he is like a different child," she said.
"He is scared to make friends because we have to keep moving all the time and is scared he will have to leave his school which is he really settled into.
"The only thing I can tell him is hopefully we will have a stable house soon and will never have to move again."
Ms Russell's story is the latest in a string of accounts of Tasmanians impacted by housing stress, living in unsuitable accommodation including shipping containers, sheds, cars, tents and under bridges.
When asked in question time on Tuesday where Ms Russell could go once she has to leave the shelter in two weeks, Mr Jaensch directed those suffering from hosing stress to contact Housing Connect as their first point of call.
Labor housing spokeswoman Alison Standen said Mr Jaensch's cold dismissal of the state's housing crisis was "simply heartless."
"Despite being confronted with the cold, hard reality on Tuesday on the floor of the Parliament of a young single mother of four facing the very real prospect of becoming homeless, the best Minister Roger Jaensch can come up with is to advise Tasmanians in this situation to dial a 1800 number," Ms Standen said.
Ms Standen told the Parliament Ms Russellwas the human face of the housing crisis.
"Nikki Russell is facing homelessness in a couple of weeks, and she worries as a consequence she will lose custody of her four children. She wants to keep that family together," Ms Standen said.
"She has spoke out bravely, not only in the hope a solution will be found for her, but for the many thousands of Tasmanians like her."
IN OTHER NEWS:
On Tuesday, Mr Jaensch announced, in recognition of the continuing high demand for social and affordable housing, the government has "heavily front-ended" its $125 million housing commitment in Stage Two of the Affordable Housing Action Plan.
Mr Jaensch said $10 million of this funding will be brought forward, bringing the total allocation in the upcoming budget to $40.5 million.
"A further $27.4 million is allocated for Housing Tasmania's capital program, including the purchase and construction of new social housing to support the initiatives in our second Action Plan," Mr Jaensch said.
"We understand there is high demand for housing across the state, and we are doing our part to increase supply across the spectrum, including extending the First Home Owner Grant of $20,000 to 30 June 2020."
Mr Jaensch said the budget handed down on Thursday will see almost $68 million invested to boost the supply of new social and affordable homes.
He said the 2019 - 20 state budget also extends a range of housing affordability programs, including:
- The First Home Owners Duty Concession of up to $7,000 on established homes until 30 June 2020
- The Duty Concession of up to $7,000 for pensioners downsizing their home until 30 June 2020
- The Land Tax Exemption for former short stay accommodation properties that are converted to long term rental until 30 June 2023
- The Land Tax Exemption for newly built housing made available for long-term rental until 30 June 2023
During question time, Mr Jaensch failed to answer how many of the 900 new homes promised by the government by the end of June had been built, however, said the government was "on track" to deliver the homes on time.
Ms White said she was concerned Mr Jaensch had not announced additional funding to address housing stress in the upcoming budget.
"It's just money that was already allocated across the forward estimates brought forward," Ms White said.
"Despite the crisis we are seeing, there is not a single extra dollar the minister has provided extra to what was promised in the election."
Mr Jaensch said good budget management had allowed the government to bring forward money that was planned to be spent in three years time into Thursday's budget.
"I don't think that Labor should be telling Labor in needs of secure housing that they should wait three years to be spent on a house for them," he said.
"It is money that was committed last year, over the next five years, and we are bringing it forward into this year because this year is when we need those houses to be invested in on the ground."