Question to Lord Mayor Graham Quirk

COUNCILLOR SRI: Thanks, Madam Chairperson. My question is to the Lord Mayor. Recent property market reports indicate that simply increasing the supply of new apartments in the inner city hasn’t significantly improved housing affordability for workers on lower and medium incomes. Rents haven’t fallen noticeably, and
no matter how many apartments we build, property investors are consistently outbidding first home buyers. Speeding up development approvals and reducing regulation isn’t making housing cheaper.

I am well aware of Council’s existing initiatives to support residents who are struggling to find stable housing, but I would love to hear what new initiatives your Administration is proposing to reduce homelessness and improve housing affordability in inner-Brisbane. How much new additional funding will you be allocating in the coming budget to projects that will address homelessness and housing affordability?

LORD MAYOR: Well, I thank Councillor SRI for the question. I understand from Councillor SRI’s maiden speech that this is an area which he is passionate about. I would just make this point, however, that whilst Councillor SRI is saying in his question today that increased economic activity by way of building in an area doesn’t necessarily result in reduced prices of that housing—in fact, we have seen from property market reports, as he has pointed out today in his question, that there has been in Brisbane over the last year around a six per cent average increase in the price of properties across our city. That is, of course, less than Sydney and Melbourne, but nonetheless is a significant annual increase.

To some people that is a good thing. But, of course, in terms of those wanting to enter the housing market, that does make it just that little bit harder again. So, in terms of housing affordability, the one thing I do know for sure is that if the supply of housing is reduced, and reduced significantly, then that of itself creates a pressure for price rises as well. The simple equation of supply and
demand is real, and it would mean that there would be even more pressure upon housing prices.

In relation to the budget, Madam Chairman, that is a matter for the budget, and I am not into the business of putting out information in relation to what might or might not be contained within the budget. That budget will come down in the middle of June, as it is timed to do. But I would just say this; this Council has always been committed to undertaking areas where we can in relation to homelessness; our Homeless Connect program, for example, is one initiative, but one only. We engage through officers of this Council on a daily basis with the people that are homeless in this city. Homelessness is something that none of us want to see.
We have explored different ways of doing things in relation to homelessness; everything from rearrangements of the food vans right through to again looking at that mechanism of moving people from homelessness into that of set accommodation living.

The reality is that not every homeless person wants that, even if it was available to them. That is just a fact of life. We know that a significant proportion of homelessness is also centred around mental health issues. I know people out there on the streets of this city that have every capacity to actually go into accommodation if they wish, but elect not to for their own individual reasons.
It is a complex issue, homelessness, and there is no simple and easy answer to it. Brisbane has always played its part by way of the Brisbane Housing Company in terms of the provision of affordable housing. We will continue to do that.
Cabinet only this morning again was in discussion around this very issue. Whilst I am not intending to say more about those discussions, we are constantly looking at these issues.
It is a little difficult, also, out in the world, when you communicate with people.

We will always have a range of initiatives around affordable housing and around homelessness. But it is a complex issue. It is not one which is easily resolved. Then there is this whole definition of what is affordability anyway. Affordable in Sydney as opposed to
affordable in Brisbane are two different things all together. What I do know is that, in any inner-city area, there is always upward pressure on prices. That is the nature of it because of the value of the land in those localities. I don’t know that it is something that’s peculiar to Brisbane. That is a market situation, probably all over the world in truth. We will continue to look for avenues where
we can make affordable housing available, but within the constraints of our budgets.