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Issue #1436      18 November 2009

Increase Public Housing Program campaign

On November 5 as part of the ongoing campaign for more public housing a protest was held outside the office of the Federal Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek, in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. It was supported by the Construction Division of the CFMEU.

In a letter of congratulations Peter McClelland, CFMEU state president, briefly outlined the history of public housing in Australia.

During the 1950s-1960s and a good portion of the 1970s, Australia could be reasonably proud of its public housing program.

However, since the mid-1970s, successive governments have failed to adequately deliver sufficient public housing for those in our society who need such shelter. The Property Council of Australia (which is not a group that is generally supportive of positions adopted by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union) states that “Governments failure to ensure an adequate supply of public housing has increased housing prices by nine percent since 2001. Insufficient building of public housing has also been a significant factor in increased rental costs”.

There is also a “developer strike” on at present, with 33,000 NSW housing lots already zoned and serviced, but these remain undeveloped – because it is not profitable to do so. Wages have failed to keep pace with housing costs. From 1986-2007 earnings doubled, but house prices went up by five times.

Deregulation of the labour market has put more low income earners into casual and part-time work, and forced other workers into sham contracting arrangements which has increased the need for public housing.

Rental stress is set at 30 percent of income. However, many low income renters pay well over that figure. The CFMEU will consistently call on all governments to focus on this most urgent issue, and to ensure there is an adequate supply of Public Housing for those in need.

Adequate public housing will not be achieved without returning to the levels of Public Housing that were ensured during the 1950s, 1960s and first half of the 1970s.

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