This government has had eight years to fix the problem of housing affordability on the Central Coast, which is just getting worse. It's harder to rent than ever before and it's harder to buy than ever before. There are more people, especially women and young people, couch surfing or living in their cars. That's why I invited Jason Clare, shadow minister for housing and homelessness, back to the Central Coast to hear firsthand from locals about the growing housing affordability crisis. Vacancy rates are as low as 0.1 per cent in parts of the coast, and rents have climbed by over $100 a week in just the last few months. In some cases, renters are paying $430 a week for a small studio apartment. When a local family of two police officers and three kids can't get a start in the housing market, we've got a problem. Homelessness on the Central Coast is growing, but often hidden are the women or young people who couch surf or live in their car—people like Sarah, who I met in Tuggerah recently and who had been living between the homes of her friends.
Last year, 10,000 women and children across Australia were turned away from refuges because there wasn't a bed. Finding a safe place to live is even tougher for those most at risk: people living with major mental ill health discharged from a hospital without a place to go. Working in the mental health units at Wyong Hospital, I saw people discharged to couches, to caravans and to caves. I heard people making call after call from the inpatient unit. They were desperate, struggling to get a roof over their head in a highly competitive rental market. The shortfall in social housing has climbed to 3,500, leaving many people waiting up to 10 years for a roof over their head.
Mr Deputy Speaker, fixing these problems won't be easy, but in this year's budget the government missed the opportunity to help renters and buyers and people living in housing stress on the Central Coast. A future Labor government will create the Housing Australia Future Fund. This will change lives and create jobs. Over the first five years, the future fund will build 30,000 new social housing properties, including homes for women and children fleeing family violence, and older women on low fixed incomes, who are most at risk of homelessness. The fund will build affordable homes for the heroes of the pandemic: the frontline workers, like police, nurses and cleaners, who kept us all safe. This housing plan is good for jobs too. It will create over 21,500 full-time jobs each year, and one in 10 construction jobs created will be for apprentices. It is a plan to help more Aussies buy a home, to help Australians who rent, and to put a roof over the heads of more people living in homelessness across Australia.
I recently met with Brad. After 20 years of shifting back and forth from prison to a couch or to the back of a car, he finally had a place to live in affordable social housing with Pacific Link Housing in Toukley. Brad spoke to Jason and me about how the stability and security of a roof over his head had turned his life around. It had given him a fresh start, one that he hadn't expected. Now he's hopeful about the future. Mr Deputy Speaker, everyone deserves that hope.