Home Important News We have an immense housing problem. Will this election offer solutions to help us?

We have an immense housing problem. Will this election offer solutions to help us?


Tasmania is so beautiful, it’s hard to describe any of it as a failure.

But the housing situation in the Apple Isle — and particularly its sparkling capital, Hobart — is so dire that you can see it everywhere you go.

There are tarpaulin-clad camps at the Cenotaph that overlooks the Derwent River and CBD, car parks with vans and cars housing students, homes that have doubled in price in a matter of years and double income families living in caravans and tents.

The dislocation is real: Tasmania’s population shrank last quarter as people left the island, medical clinics can’t house doctors they want to hire.

From the outside, today’s election could be seen to be whether the newest AFL team the Tasmania Devils will get the expensive stadium the league has deemed a make-or-break condition of entry.

It could be about shocking allegations of child sexual abuse in state institutions or a referendum on the 10-year-old Liberal government, the last surviving one in Australia.

But ask Tasmanians, talk to Tasmanians, visit Tasmania, and you’ll get a sense that the cost of living — and affordable access to housing — will be at the forefront of voters’ thoughts as the pencil marks down the numbers that will decide the next government.

The housing crisis in Tasmania mirrors problems in the rest of the nation.

But in the past decade, and particularly the past five years, things have changed. What used to be ‘cheap’ housing, much less than the cost of the mainland, rocketed.

An arts-fuelled tourism boom brought cashed-up tree-changers and flocks of local and domestic tourists. It was a heady mix of cash and change that invigorated Tasmania but saw house prices rocket as dwellings considered almost farcically cheap by Sydney and Melbourne residents were snapped up.

At the same time, online-based short stay platforms like Airbnb and Stayz took a huge slab of houses out of what had been a healthy rental market. That’s great for people who want to visit on the weekend, but it’s been disastrous for lifers — because more people have had to compete for a smaller pool of houses, trying to get the dubious honour of being the only house in the street with a porchlight burning on a Tuesday night mid-winter.

It’s stark.

While Tasmania has lower wages and a high level of people on government support payments and vulnerable communities, cheap housing meant you didn’t really see people begging or sleeping rough.

That has changed.

Tasmania experienced the largest increase in homelessness in Australia in the five years to 2021, jumping 45 per cent.

The waiting list for social housing has essentially doubled and the average time people wait on the list has gone up by a factor of more than four: from 16-weeks to 80-weeks.

Reports suggest rent in Tasmania is rising up to 10 times faster than income support payments. Even writing that is almost theoretical, because people on welfare can’t afford to rent in the private market.

The Tenants’ Union of Tasmania says the average Tasmanian renter is paying $7,000 more to keep a roof over their head than five years ago.

Five years ago, the median rent in Tasmania was $311 per week … now it is $445.

The diabolical solution is at least getting action. All three major parties contesting today’s election — and the swathe of independents — have a list of housing policies that would seem radical on the mainland.

No matter who wins today, what has changed is that governments — and parties that want to win power — have realised that housing is at the core of what voters value.

With more and more people locked out of buying, that means better protection for renters, more social housing, curbs on short-stay accommodation and an acknowledgement that the crisis is happening right now.

In other states and territories, as well as the federal government, elections will be held this year and early in 2025.

Expect housing to be a focus. Expect to see more substantial solutions and more outlandish offers.

Because even if a government hasn’t caused all our housing problems, people who can’t keep a roof over their head won’t be rewarding parties that don’t offer a credible path out of the crisis

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