Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund Bill 2016

Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund Bill 2016

(Debate, 11 October 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

The Sydney electorate has significant social housing communities with estates in Woolloomooloo, Pyrmont, Darlinghurst and Millers Point (although it is diminishing in Millers Point). Before the last election, I also represented social housing communities in Surry Hills, Chippendale and Ultimo.

Stable low-cost housing is vital to people on very low incomes, especially those with a mental illness, drug and alcohol problem, suffering from trauma and abuse, and prisoners released back in the community. Providing a stable home to someone who is disadvantaged, frail or vulnerable can help that person: get back on their feet; break the cycle of disadvantage; get needed treatment for health, mental health, drugs and alcohol problems; avoid a life of crime; or simply feel safe and secure.

Social and affordable housing is a vital government service and I welcome the new opportunities that the Social and Affordable Housing NSW Fund Bill will create for new social and affordable homes.

The bill establishes the Social and Affordable Housing Fund that the government will finance through returns from $1.1 billion worth of investments to use on innovative projects that deliver new social and affordable homes. 

Funding will go to consortia of community housing providers, financiers, developers, land owners and other non-government organisations providing social and affordable housing, to bridge the gap between costs and returns, helping to attract new investment in housing outside of government.

Legislating the fund will ensure this new investment goes to social and affordable housing in the future, as opposed to consolidated revenue, with any change requiring an act of parliament.

The Social and Affordable Housing Fund is the main growth fund for social housing in this state, with Family and Community Services housing budgets generally focussed on management of housing over expanding stock.

Even the Communities Plus program which aims to produce around 6,000 new social housing dwellings by redeveloping the Land and Housing Corporation’s existing land, is financed by mixed-tenure and increased densities, not new money.

I strongly welcome the new investment into what is often an overlooked government function.

The bill provides for appropriation of the fund from future state budgets and I expect it will need regular top ups to finance new dwellings on an ongoing basis. While an excellent start, we will need more than the 3,000 new dwellings that will come out of the first round of funding given housing has been neglected by successive governments for so long.

The Fund is being financed from revenue from investment by the Treasury Corporation. I suggest the Treasurer consider other sources, such as a budget appropriation. For example, an appropriation of $800 million every 10 years for the delivery of around 2,000 extra dwellings annually could achieve 20,000 new dwellings over a 10-year period. As well, the Treasurer could review the purposes for which money from the government’s Waratah Bonds are used, since these are currently limited to funding infrastructure projects.

Much of the success of this fund is outside the framework of the legislation and will rely on government implementation policies and procedures.

I understand the government will take a flexible approach and is willing to support newly constructed homes, existing dwellings or redevelopments, as long as an increase in social and affordable housing stock is achieved, with a minimum of 500 dwellings for metropolitan projects. I understand that a mix of tenure can be supported provided at least 70 per cent of additional stock is social housing.

Importantly Community Housing Providers will be expected to focus on tenant management to help tenants achieve their potential, which for some may include being able to earn enough to secure long term private accommodation.

Security of tenure is one of the biggest concerns for tenants and funding contracts will end after 25 years after which properties can be sold or transferred to the private rental market. I understand that this reduces the risk for private investment and that the intention is to encourage consortia to reapply for contracts after they cease, however many tenants will be concerned about their future as the end of a contract for their home approaches.

I ask the government to establish strong safeguards that ensure tenants are kept informed about their future tenancies and that if they must leave their home, that they are provided with similar housing within their communities.

In closing, I congratulate the government on investing in new social and affordable housing stock and for encouraging an innovative approach to addressing the long waiting list for social housing. I support the bill. 

See Handsard for Bill and full debate HERE

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