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The Sydney Alliance, along with many of its members across a diverse coalition embracing civil society, is cautiously excited about the NSW Government’s hopes for a NSW Housing Strategy.
Housing has often been seen as one big asset class but unfortunately this has led to an overdevelopment of housing aimed at the top 40% of income earners with extremely limited new supply to the bottom 40% of income earners.
With the cost of land in greater Sydney being the most expensive in Australia and one of the most expensive in the world, this has unfortunately crunched those who do not own a home and who can least afford to pay, while rewarding those who own multiple properties.
While many of our members, including Shelter NSW, the Tenants’ Union, Wollondilly Resilience Network (WReN) and Churches Housing put in formal submissions to the “NSW Housing Strategy Discussion Paper”, this is a summary and collation of what the Sydney Alliance Housing Team would love to see in a comprehensive NSW Housing Strategy.
- We would love to see a mandated minimum percentage of any housing development set aside for affordable rental housing. With government investment in new social and affordable rental housing being insufficient for demand and population growth, a clear mechanism that sets aside 15% of residential developments on private land for affordable rental housing, with 30% for those on government land. A cash alternative for instances where it is not suitable to include affordable rental housing, with clear criteria, should be put into a funding pool for community housing providers to draw upon for future developments.
- Clear metrics are required for both social and affordable housing. A housing strategy requires targets and when these targets are not met, then the strategy needs to be reviewed and re-directed. These metrics can also be used to ensure that social and affordable housing is included in all LGAs across greater Sydney, allowing for lower-paid workers to have access to jobs in all LGAs. There is agreement across the sector that social housing demand requires 5,000 units per year to be built. With government currently asking all councils to implement affordable housing policy within their new development plans, there needs to be firm and consistent implementation of these plans, along with measurement, accountability and transparency.
- Affordable homes also need to be affordable to live in, yet most tenants have been left out of any participation in renewable and affordable energy. The lowest 40% of income earners are now subsidising those within the top 40% who have access to government subsidies to implement renewable energy alternatives. Access and participation by renters in renewable and affordable energy supply should be a key metric in delivering new housing for a new era.
- New housing models for both rent and purchase need to be trialled. From Community Land Trusts (perpetually affordable housing) to Shared Equity (part-purchase of housing) and many others, these forms of rent or purchase are of course not new, even in Australia, but have not been allowed to grow in NSW due to lack of government support and the required changes in regulation. This should also include housing programs and social inclusion targeted to particular vulnerable groups whether disabled, aboriginal, older single women, domestic violence survivors and other groups identified as vulnerable and where the private market has failed to deliver.
- Residential tenancy rights need to be bolstered and we really do need to get rid of “no-grounds evictions” once and for all. With the number of perpetual renters increasing north of 30% of the population, we need to ensure that they are protected from the cost and upheaval of moving their family from home to home. While Build-to-Rent is touted as a new form of renting with long tenancies, this will not be affordable, generally adding a 10-20% cost premium on market rates. In particular we need to protect vulnerable tenants who cannot afford to move and are often fearful of asking for simple repairs.
The Sydney Alliance Housing Team asks that the NSW Government considers the impact of failing to invest in housing that is affordable to the bottom 40% of income earners. These workers and their families contribute in a multitude of ways in building our community, yet are often brushed aside in key policy and strategy settings. New supply of housing that is only targeted to the top 40% if income earners will fail to deliver for the wide range of demographics and socio-economic profiles found within our city and will continue the perception that Sydney is unaffordable and not inclusive. We hope that we can see a Sydney that is affordable for everyone, providing safe, secure and affordable homes that will build our society as an inclusive community.