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Push for NSW Govt to Increase Affordable Housing Supply

6 September 2016 at 10:48 am
Ellie Cooper
New South Wales needs 100,000 new affordable homes in 10 years to tackle the housing problem, with current government efforts called a “drop in the ocean”.

Ellie Cooper | 6 September 2016 at 10:48 am


Push for NSW Govt to Increase Affordable Housing Supply
6 September 2016 at 10:48 am

New South Wales needs 100,000 new affordable homes in 10 years to tackle the housing problem, with current government efforts called a “drop in the ocean”.

Sydney houses

In an open letter to Premier Mike Baird and Planning Minister Rob Stokes, a group of planning experts, housing and homeless peaks and property sector representatives called on the NSW Government to act on housing affordability.

CEO of NSW Federation of Housing Associations Wendy Hayhurst, who signed the letter, told Pro Bono Australia News the state’s housing supply needed to be increased.  

“We wrote this letter because of the extreme housing need in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales, and what we feel is an incomplete response by the New South Wales Government to the scale of that problem,” Hayhurst said.

“We acknowledge that they’re doing some things – they’re revitalising some of the public housing, they’ve got a small-scale fund to increase social and affordable housing by about 3,000 units, and they hope to generate around about another 6,000 units through the Communities Plus.

“But that’s a drop in the ocean in comparison to the scale of need in New South Wales. So we wanted to publicise and reinforce the message we’ve been making for a very long time.”

The letter, also signed by Committee for Sydney CEO Tim Williams, Homelessness NSW CEO Katherine McKernan, Professor Bill Randolph, director of the City Futures Research Centre at UNSW, and Professor Peter Phibbs, from the faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at Sydney University, said the problem required an innovative approach.

“Something new needs to be tried not least to meet the housing needs of low paid but essential workers which are not being met currently by social housing provision or the current market,” the letter said.

“The government has a real opportunity to make a difference both to the number and mix of homes in Sydney and community wellbeing if it uses its resources and powers in partnership with community housing providers and the private sector.”

Hayhurst recommended the government adopt four key innovation initiatives for creating new houses.

“Any regeneration site on government land needs to have very high, ambitious targets for affordable housing… mandate that developers have to produce affordable housing there, that’s number one,” she said.

“Number two, [have] inclusionary zonings. So where there’s housing need, a proportion of any private sector development should also have affordable housing on it.

“Number three is to expand the social and affordable housing fund to subsidise affordable housing as well. If we’re going to build things that we either sell for below-market value or rent for below-market rent, you can only do that with some form of subsidy.

“And four, support an initiative we’ve come forward with, which is the affordable housing financial intermediary, which will allow our members, community housing providers, to borrow from the private sector, at much more favourable rates over a longer term. It brings down the cost of finance. The way to support that is simply by initiating those other three things.

“And we think the combination of those four things would really start to make a difference in Sydney and the other bits of New South Wales, like Byron Bay, the North Coast where there’s also a huge problem.”

While housing affordability is an issue Australia wide, Hayhurst said the situation in Sydney was particularly dire.

“At the moment we know there are around 60,000 people on the social housing waiting list. Now not everyone who’s in housing need will be there because not all of them will be eligible for social housing,” she said.

“To maintain the amount of social and affordable housing as a proportion of what there is now, in the next 20 years we need to build 100,000, that’s without factoring in the population growth.

“So we’re saying really you should be looking at a 10-year plan to get 100,000 affordable houses – that’s a range of housing from social housing all the way up to almost market rented. We’re saying 100,000 in 10 years is really what you need to do to actually make a difference.

“Housing development brings jobs with it. There will be more people paying less of their income on housing and more available to stimulate the economy in other ways as well. So it isn’t just a question of asking government for subsidy, it’s about supporting something that, in the end, will make New South Wales both a better place for people to live but also a more successful place economically.”

She said she was optimistic about receiving a response from the government.

“The five partners who signed it have a lot of credibility. We’d be very disappointed if they ignored a letter like that, when really what we’re talking about is a problem about the success of New South Wales,” she said.

“Essentially [it’s] something the government needs to put right to enable its plans to improve economic performance across New South Wales.

“If it doesn’t do that, then the people who they need to work in.. those innovation hubs they talk about, they’re not going to be able to afford to live anywhere near where they’re going to be working. So… we think they will respond.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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