MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has declared a housing crisis to force the state and federal governments to provide more and cheaper accommodation for those in need.
The list of people falling into the needy category outlined by Cr Sarah Race included those fleeing domestic violence, long-term renters, hospitality and tourism staff and rough sleepers on the foreshore.
Cr Race successfully pushed for the declaration at council’s Thursday 28 October meeting saying similar housing problems also existed in Colac-Otway Shire, Surf Coast Shire and Byron Shire in NSW.
“Housing across the peninsula is our number one crisis, from Balnarring to Portsea, Hastings to Mornington, we have a multifaceted crisis that has only been exacerbated by COVID-19.”
Cr Race cited the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which declares: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing …”
“Here on the Mornington Peninsula we are currently failing our community on this basic human right,” she said.
“We have heard stories about pensioners sleeping in their cars, domestic violence victim survivors having to stay with their abusers, long-time families having to leave their communities because of a lack of affordable rentals, and businesses operating below capacity because of a lack of workers – this is pervasive across the peninsula.”
Cr Race said women were disproportionately affected by homelessness.
“The causes are many and varied, but if we are to have vibrant communities then we need to ensure we have a mix of housing to cater for all demographics,” she said.
“Housing security correlates to health and emotional wellbeing, employment prospects and economic opportunity.
“It wasn’t until I became a councillor and had the opportunity to meet so many people in our community that I began to see the housing crisis unfold.”
Cr Race said house prices in some areas of the peninsula had risen more than 30 per cent in the past year.
She was calling on the federal government to help and not the state government because “it is an Australia-wide issue”.
“In Byron Shire 20 per cent of their housing stock are now Airbnb with terrible ramifications for that region,” she said. The Colac-Otway and Surf Coast shires have already declared housing crises, particularly in relation to key and essential worker accommodation.
Working with other coastal councils could have “collective impact at the negotiating table”.
Cr Race said declaring a housing crisis was a “call to arms for our shire”.
Cr David Gill successfully moved that Cr Race’s motion included asking the state government for housing assistance, rather than just the federal government. He said the council “could be accused of bias if it did not include the state government”. “There’s no crisis accommodation on the peninsula because the state government has refused to provide it,” he said.
Crs Anthony Marsh and Susan Bissinger opposed the housing crisis motion: Cr Marsh on a matter of procedure and Cr Bissinger saying it was a “springboard” for Cr Race to “go after Airbnbs” and have the industry more heavily regulated.
“This will threaten our livelihoods,” she said. “We can’t start dictating housing affordability if it threatens our tourism.
“We do have to advocate for the homeless, but declaring a crisis gives people a platform to bounce all kinds of weird things off and totally desensitises people to the word.”