Cr Kathy Duff, Mayor Brett Otto, CEO Mark Pitt and Cr Danita Potter at the Council Chambers on Thursday (Cr Kirstie Schumacher also attended the meeting)

October 7, 2021

The complex problems of homelessness, the demand for public housing and the construction of affordable housing have been issues at the forefront of recent South Burnett Regional Council discussions.

A mini-meeting with to explore the issues was held at the Council Chambers on Thursday afternoon with CEO Mark Pitt, Mayor Brett Otto and councillors Danita Potter, Kathy Duff and Kirstie Schumacher sharing their knowledge of the local situation.

This followed figures published on Wednesday which showed that at June 30 this year, there were 72 approved applicants waiting for vacancies in the 233 public housing units in the South Burnett.

As well, it had been estimated there were between 130 and 150 homeless people in the region, including people couch-surfing, living in cars or sleeping rough.

Mayor Otto issued a “mayoral statement”, urging all levels of government to work together to solve housing problems.

He said he had recently met with Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch to discuss public housing issues and was planning another meeting later this month to discuss other ways the South Burnett Regional Council could assist in delivering the Minister’s four-year plan

In June, the State Government unveiled its Queensland Housing Strategy Action Plan 2021-2025 which included a $1.9 billion investment over four years and a new $1 billion Housing Investment Fund to increase social housing stock and increase housing and homelessness supports across Queensland.

Mayor Otto said public housing was not an easy issue to address.

“I have more sympathy than most for the hardships of our community members that have found themselves in difficult positions, but issues as important as homelessness and public housing demand should be above political point scoring,” the Mayor said.

He said the housing issue was not only in the South Burnett but a much wider issue, especially in Queensland, as demand for regional housing had increased dramatically.

“COVID has had different impacts on different areas and one of the side-effects of the pandemic has been that regional housing cannot keep up with the demand,” Mayor Otto said.

“You could go as far as saying that because Queensland has been kept so safe thus far, this has also resulted in huge demands for regional housing. There are very few rentals available and we are actively working as a council to identify opportunities to rectify this.

“It truly is a double-edged sword – on one hand we have this crisis and on the other we have a thriving property and construction industry.”

Mayor Otto said he planned to visit Brisbane again next week to meet with Cabinet Ministers and Opposition David Crisafulli for a bipartisan approach to the issue.

“I will say this, Minister Enoch and the Palaszczuk Government have committed to investing $2.9 billion over the next four years to help more vulnerable Queenslanders into homes faster,” he said.

“lt is imperative we, as a council, continue to work hand-in-glove with Minister Enoch and the government housing strategy to ensure our desired outcomes are aligned with their strategy delivery,” he said.

Mayor Otto said was keen to ensure the South Burnett was at the table having input into the Housing and Homelessness Action Plan.

“This is not an issue where we sit outside and throw stones,” he said.

“We are aware of the unique situation we find ourselves in and I know the government has responded to the unprecedented housing market conditions with the Action Plan, and I have put
my hand up to work with Minister Enoch and all stakeholders to see it delivered,” he said.

“I encourage community members requiring support or assistance with housing to contact local agencies.”

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