Housing affordability, transport, suburb growth and crime dominate Victorian election forum


Updated

October 10, 2018 21:21:08

What do you get when you bring a bunch of people together to talk politics without the politicians?

About 70 people gathered in Southbank to debate policy free from spin, and with the guiding influence of experts and leaders in transport, crime and housing at tonight’s ABC Radio Melbourne Voter’s Voice forum.

One of the youngest in the audience, Zoe’s heart was set on a topic that many young Victorians had a burning passion for: housing affordability.

She’s just purchased a house through the HomesVic shared equity scheme, where the government helps first-home buyers enter the market by reducing the amount of money required for a home loan.

In turn the government takes a share up of to 25 per cent interest in the property, and Zoe wanted to know what other policies might be on offer to help improve affordability.

Experts on the panel agreed the state of affairs for young people is still grim when it comes to housing.

Young homebuyers need to be realistic

Richard Simpson, the immediate past president of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, said there remained a massive affordability gap.

He said young people needed to be more realistic.

“I think people want to live in the nicest areas, they want to live where they’ve grown up and I think that that is going to be out of the reach of a lot of people,” he said.

“If you want to buy a house these days young people are going to have to lean on their parents for help, if they want to buy a place in the area where they want to live that’s what they’ve got to do.”

He believes there’s not much state governments can do.

“I think people are going to have to face the possibility that they’re going to have to rent for a longer period of time in their life, or for their entire life,” he said.

“That’s achievable for young people on a good wage, but the picture is much more stark for those on low incomes, where what’s affordable is more likely to be limited.”

Jenny Smith, from the Council for Homeless Persons, said: “The problem is that we don’t have enough social housing for people on low incomes.”

New suburbs without ‘key amenities’

Mark O’Brien from the Tenants Union of Victoria said it was vital that the state government committed to more social housing: he’s calling for at least 3,000 units to be built each year over the next decade.

“Even that though would only probably be keeping pace with population growth,” he said.

“You will impact the waiting list a little bit but you’ve got to do it over a prolonged period of time for it to have any effect.

“Broadening the social housing system so it caters to people beyond the most disadvantaged is really an essential thing to do to manage the housing system effectively.”

But it’s all about location, location, location and building affordable homes in suburbs without key amenities would only put pressure on other parts of the system.

“We’re asking people to move into these suburbs where they’ve got very poor bus services,” said Daniel Bowen from the Public Transport Users Association.

“Maybe one bus every half hour, worse on weekends, and you’re expecting people to get around and be able to live their lives without driving? Well they’re not. They’re going to buy a car. They’re going to buy a car for every adult in their house.

“And then we’re surprised that the roads get congested when there is effectively no public transport option in those areas.”

Mr Bowen said the road and rail balance in Melbourne was still lacking.

“We’re becoming one of the world’s biggest cities, we need to start acting like it and planning for it. We have no metro service and by that I mean, frequent trains all day,” he said.

“Melbourne really needs to move towards this. Turn up and go at any time of day.”

Criminologist says politicians are ‘cherrypicking’ crime statistics

Housing, but particularly homelessness, was also one of the key factors behind another topic on the minds of the audience: crime.

Both political parties are striving to be tough on law and order in the lead-up to the November poll, with the Coalition claiming Victoria is in a state of lawlessness.

Audience member John Barrett, whose home was invaded and trashed in June this year, wanted to know if crime rates were really rising, and if state government policies could really make a difference.

Dr Karen Gelb, a criminologist who spent eight years with the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council, answered both questions confidently.

“Crime rates overall are not going up. I think it’s really, really important that people understand that,” she said.

“The fear mongering that goes on among politicians and the law and order auction, and the bidding that we see, is based on really a misinterpretation, a selective cherrypicking of the statistics.”

Lawyer and advocate for the South Sudanese community, Nyadol Nyuon, said politicians had hijacked the fundamental desire for people to feel safe at home.

“Politicians understand that people want to feel safe in their homes and therefore they’ve politicised the discussion around crime … to essentially land political goals,” she said.

“It doesn’t really address the issue of criminal activity.”

Dr Gelb said the state government could make a difference, but it would be better if they focused on the social and economic causes of crime.

“We are not going to arrest our way out of crime. That never works. Prison does not work. Getting harsher and harsher sentences is not going to work to reduce crime.”

Topics:

state-parliament,

government-and-politics,

elections,

melbourne-3000

First posted

October 10, 2018 21:09:47



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