Hobart’s outer northern and southern suburbs are experiencing significant demand for social and public housing — far outstripping supply — including hundreds of applications for family-size houses.
- Housing Connect data shows significant demand for three and four-bedroom social housing in Glenorchy and other northern suburbs of Hobart
- One social housing applicant said she had been waiting for 125 weeks to be housed and continues to couch surf in Bridgewater
- The government’s Homes Tasmania bill is due to be debated in the upper house this week
New Housing Connect data obtained by the ABC shows there are almost 50 applications for three and four-bedroom social houses in the suburb of Glenorchy, with the next greatest need in Claremont and Kingston.
These suburbs also have a high demand for smaller premises, including 151 applications for one-bedroom and 85 for two-bedrooms in Glenorchy.
Among those on the waiting list is Shelley Ford, who became homeless in mid-2020 after a relationship breakdown.
She could not afford the $350 a week rent in the private market and has couch surfed with family in Bridgewater with her 15-year-old niece, who she cares for, but who has struggled to stay in school due to the uncertainty.
They have spent time living in a tent at Fortescue Bay.
“It’s horrible. I feel for her every day. She breaks my heart, it’s not fair,” Ms Ford said.
She was offered brokered accommodation at a caravan park, which she was keen to accept, but was incorrectly told it would move her to the back of the list for social housing.
Since then, Ms Ford said she has had almost no updates from her housing workers or Housing Connect.
“I see all these empty houses. I ring my worker and say to them about these properties, and yeah, nothing becomes of them,” she said.
‘Not knowing where you’re going to put your head down that night, and the next night, it’s just horrible, it’s sad.
“I’ve never been in this situation before.”
Looking far and wide for housing fails to get results
Social housing applicants can list as many suburbs as they like in their preferences, which Ms Ford said she had done for Hobart.
She has been on the social housing waiting list for 125 weeks, well above the rolling 12-month average of 70 weeks in Tasmania. This figure has also been steadily climbing in recent years.
Labor raised Ms Ford’s story in Parliament in June, asking Housing Minister Guy Barnett how he could help.
He responded that the government would do “all we can” to support her, but Ms Ford said she has had little contact since.
“I haven’t heard nothing, not one word. [It’s] like I’m lost in the system,” she said.
Demand for social housing does not end at Hobart’s boundaries.
There are 19 applications for three-bedroom social housing in the Sorell council area, and 37 for one-bedroom. Derwent Valley and Huon Valley have similar levels of demand.
The government is pushing ahead with its plans for a new statutory authority, Homes Tasmania, which has passed the lower house and is due to be debated in the upper house this week.
It is a key part of plans for 10,000 new affordable and social housing dwellings by 2032.
Labor housing spokesperson Ella Haddad said the party remained opposed to this, with concerns there would not be any new powers for the government to fast-track affordable housing supply.
She said Tasmanians facing homelessness needed to have more emergency options.
“Ten years is too long to wait for Shelley and for her family. Many people don’t have 10 weeks to wait, let alone 10 years, and the government needs to be doing more right now for emergency housing solutions,” Ms Haddad said.
“I think the government probably has good intentions, but the worry for many people working in the sector is that there won’t be any new powers for Homes Tasmania.”
Mr Barnett said Homes Tasmania was designed to take “what works so well” in the community housing sector to deliver more houses.
“It will also complement the significant investments we are making right now on immediate actions to help those in housing stress, investing $36 million each year on wrap around homelessness support, including specialist homelessness services, and Safe Spaces across the state,” he said.