(Private Member's Statement, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
New South Wales is in a housing affordability crisis and the situation in Sydney's inner city has become dire. Buying a home is increasingly out of reach, with property prices having skyrocketed over the past decade amid sluggish wages growth. Those who have mortgages are spending a greater proportion of their income on repayments and more than half of lower income households with a mortgage are in housing stress. While there is talk of property prices easing following the royal commission, it is unclear whether low to medium income earners will benefit. Many people have no choice but to rent, but renting affordability has also declined with rents now so high only 1 per cent of Sydney rental homes are within the means of the lowest income households, none of which are in the inner city.
In the City of Sydney region, rents have risen by 70 per cent over the last decade. More than a quarter of rented households in my electorate are in housing stress, with more than 30 per cent of their income spent on rent. Increasingly the workers needed to make the city vibrant and functional cannot afford to live close to their work, including police officers, nurses, baristas, musicians and artists. The social housing system is there to stop vulnerable and disadvantaged people from becoming homeless, but the waiting list is 60,000 people long and most will have to wait close to a decade to get a home. An estimated 140,000 additional people are eligible for social housing but have not registered. This puts many people at risk of homelessness.
Approximately 38,000 people in New South Wales do not have a home and homelessness rates have risen by 37 per cent since 2011. Of people who are homeless, 7 per cent are sleeping rough, 16 per cent are in crisis services, 18 per cent are in boarding houses, 14 per cent are couch surfing, 9 per cent are in temporary lodgings and 45 per cent are in severely overcrowded dwellings. All of these scenarios pose significant threats to life, safety, health and wellbeing. Without secure housing, medical issues including mental health conditions cannot be treated and can degenerate, and new health problems emerge. People are at risk of violence and intimidation and are more likely to enter the criminal justice system. Getting and keeping a job is near impossible.
A range of measures is needed to relieve housing stress and ensure the vast majority of people have a safe and secure home. The most important measure is to increase social and affordable housing stock urgently and significantly. Strong targets are needed for major housing redevelopments that deliver at least 15 per cent new social and affordable homes. Inner-city redevelopment projects are falling short of this vital goal, with Barangaroo set to deliver a mere 2.3 per cent of residential floor space to key workers, and there are no commitments for Central to Eveleigh or the Bays Precinct. While the promise of 30 per cent social and 5 per cent affordable housing at the Waterloo redevelopment sounds like a strong target, assessment shows at best it will deliver only a tiny additional 148—or, at worst, 62 fewer—social housing properties than currently exist on the site. This is in exchange for significant overdevelopment that will result in the highest residential density in the country.
The sale of Millers Point public housing caused significant distress to tenants who were evicted from their homes and relocated away from their communities. It also reduced the neighbourhood's diversity and sense of community, with many homes converted to short-term letting. All of this pain had little impact on the social housing waiting list, with sale funds used mainly to replace stock. Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of the homes to be built through the Communities Plus and the Social and Affordable Housing Fund merely replace existing stock. We urgently need to build 5,000 new social housing properties each year until 2026 just to keep up with need. This is the only way we will end homelessness.
Councils should be permitted to require developer contributions for affordable housing without State approval. The Affordable Housing Taskforce 2012 interim report committed to a new State environmental planning policy [SEPP], standard local environmental plan [LEP] clauses, development standards and integration with strategic planning, but there has been little progress other than extending affordable housing schemes under the Affordable Housing (Revised Schemes) SEPP to five new councils. The Housing Affordability Strategy focuses on increasing housing supply, despite recent building booms failing to improve affordability. We must also closely assess the impact of short-term holiday letting on housing affordability in areas of high tourist demand. I call on the Government to improve housing affordability by building new stock and legislating strong targets and to work towards ending homelessness by 2030.