MEDIA RELEASE: More community housing critical as rental stress grows in NSW

More community housing critical as rental stress grows in NSW

Growing rental stress across NSW highlights the urgent need for action from all levels of government to create more social and affordable housing for local communities from the Tweed to the Riverina, the state’s peak not for profit housing body said today.

NSW Federation of Housing Associations CEO, Wendy Hayhurst, said Anglicare’s 2018 Rental Affordability Snapshot released today shows that chronic rental stress has spread its tentacles to almost every area of the state.

“It’s no surprise that yet again there is not a single property affordable for a young family on a minimum wage or government support to rent within 20km of Sydney’s CBD,” Ms Hayhurst said.

“However today’s report from Anglicare shows it’s biting hard in regional areas from the Far North Coast right through to the Northern Tablelands and the Riverina. Even in towns like Tamworth, Wagga and Goulburn a job seeker on Newstart cannot find a single affordable place to rent while they look for work.”

Ms Hayhurst said waiting lists for social housing are up to a decade long in more and more areas of NSW.

She said the state’s community housing sector is ready to grow to meet demand but needs planning reforms and a commitment from all levels of government to afacilitate this growth.

“We need more affordable rental options for households struggling everywhere in our state, particularly people with disability, aged pensioners, job seekers and families struggling to keep a roof over their heads on a minimum wage,” Ms Hayhurst said.

“Our community housing providers already own and manage more than 35,000 properties in 115 council areas of NSW, providing affordable rent, care and support for our tenants and a range of high quality housing models for people in housing stress.

“Councils like Shoalhaven are beginning to develop affordable housing strategies for their local communities. We really need the State Government to release a comprehensive Housing Strategy for the whole of NSW that spells out exactly when, where and how we can deliver the social and affordable housing our local communities need, wherever in NSW they live.

“The Federation will continue to work with local councils, the NSW Government and Opposition in coming months to make it happen.”

The 2018 Everybody’s Home Affordable Housing Conference on June 27 and 28 will highlight the current and growing shortfall of accessible and affordable housing in Australia.

Media contact: Jenny Stokes 0407 504 280

Inner West Council – planning together for a better Sydney roundtable 7th March 2018

The newly amalgamated Inner West Council in Sydney brought together a range of stakeholders for a planning roundtable this week.  The Federation has worked with IWC over the course of several months to support and encourage Council in their development of a series of affordable housing initiatives.  IWC have taken commendable steps to promote affordable housing in their area, including developing an Affordable Housing Policy  and a paper on the issues around Value Capture Best Practice in Value Capture 

IWC have also applied for an extension to SEPP 70 to enable the levying of mandatory affordable housing contributions and set an affordable housing target of 15% for developments with a gross floor area of 1700 m2 or greater, and seek 30% affordable housing on their own land.
So it was with interest that the Federation and sector representatives attended IWC’s planning roundtable. The conversation was very wide ranging and covered interests and priorities from the airport to the economic value of industrial land. Key affordable housing points made were:
Sydney’s pace of growth – the city is expected to reach a population of 8 million by 2046 – 10 years earlier than previously projected. Sydney is growing faster than any other top 10 global cities.
Gentrification in IWC is leading to less diversity and the exclusion of people on low incomes and those dependent on public and social housing, including Aboriginal people and the roundtable acknowledged the huge pressures on affordable housing in the area.

The roundtable returned frequently to a number of themes – the need for placed based planning, a community led bottom up approach and with calls for resistance to the silo led government agencies (with RMS getting a particular Guernsey in this context). The silo based agencies fulfil their briefs but may not be aware of the evidence of different modes of working that take a community wide and city wide view (rather than thinking about the speed of traffic flow, for example).
Another are where Council was urged to push back was around Treasury’s insistence on highest and best value in its land dealings, as this leads to many lost opportunities. Some advocated an approach which measures and prioritises wider benefits and included the value of open space and culture and argued that “Net Community Benefit” should be examined at the DA stage.

Rik Hart, IWC General Manager, included a call for practical suggestions about how IWC could deliver the ambitious and varied plans suggested by participants. Two suggestions from the sector were to utilise value capture more effectively and to understand the development equation better – for example major developers will build with 35% inclusionary zoning when required – developers understand the process and factor the costs into a lower land price.

CEO’s Report

Why aren’t governments investing more in social and affordable housing? It’s not as if we all can’t see the results, indeed, a growing number of us are feeling the consequences.  A recent AHURI reportestimated that over the last 20 years social housing numbers increased by 4%, far outstripped by household numbers which grew by 30% over the same period. Combine this with house prices rocketing upwards and incomes for most people just stuttering forwards and it looks very like a car crash waiting to happen.

The 2016 census data released a couple of weeks ago shows that one consequence of this under investment is the rise in homelessness across Australia and in NSW particularly, where the numbers of homeless people jumped to almost 38,000, an increase of 37% on the 2011 figures.  In NSW the main explanation seems to be the severe overcrowding many people face in exchange for getting an affordable roof over their heads.

It isn’t just people on the lowest incomes feeling the pinch, as demonstrated by research from the University of Sydney’s Urban Housing Lab for the Teachers Mutual Bank, Firefighters Mutual Bank and Police Bank. This shows that nurses, teachers and police are being driven to the outer reaches of the city (and beyond) as high house prices price them out of communities close to jobs.

So again, why aren’t we seeing governments take up the infrastructure challenge and invest in a large scale social and affordable housing program? In the absence of robust housing needs assessments common in other jurisdictions the Federation asked Judith Yates, currently an Honorary Associate in the School of Economics at the University of Sydney, to prepare estimates of the need for additional social and affordable housing in NSW.  Her conservative estimates – based on getting back to the proportion of social housing we had in 1996, meeting the needs of households eligible for affordable housing who are currently in rental stress and responding to household growth over the next ten years – demonstrate the challenge – 12,500 additional social and affordable homes per annum. It will get larger the longer we wait to start.

So is the reason that it costs too much? Well it also costs not to invest, as Cameron Parsell at the University of Queensland explained in an article in which he showed that governments were spending on average $13,100 more each year to keep someone homeless than if they had provided them with a home and support services.

And governments do invest big dollars in improving Australia’s infrastructure. The Commonwealth 17/18 budget earmarked $75B over ten years for spending on ‘critical airport, road, and rail infrastructure projects’. While in NSW the state government increased its four year infrastructure spending to $80B on transport, as well as water, energy, education, justice and cultural projects

So perhaps we need to take a few lessons from the transport lobby and make an additional and compelling argument for social and affordable housing. It is the reason that the Federation, with support from the national industry body, CHIA, and nine community housing providers commissioned an investigation into the impact of the housing market’s performance on economic productivity from the City Futures Research Centre at UNSW. See Making Better economic cases for housing below.