Social and Community Housing

26 October 2020

Social and Community Housing

(Question Without Notice, 20 October 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My question is directed to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer ensure that the budget supports the most vulnerable, including people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, through the provision of new social and community housing?

Response from the Treasurer: I thank the member for his great question, which is focused on social outcomes and economic benefits, in particular during the pandemic. The member does not ask many questions in this place but it is quality over quantity. He has asked many questions in relation to the pandemic, which the Opposition seems to have missed. I acknowledge his interest in social and affordable housing. As the member is aware, the Government is focused, particularly during this time, on keeping as many people in work, creating jobs and ensuring that the stimulus projects that the Government runs and is investing in during this time go towards providing strong social outcomes. What the member will see in the upcoming budget on 17 November is a continued record investment from the Liberals and Nationals in social and affordable housing. The member will note that on 23 March the first announcement was made in relation to a $2.3 billion investment, a substantial investment in terms of social and affordable housing. The Government allocated $60.5 million for maintenance works and upgrades on public housing properties and $47 million was allocated to the Land and Housing Corporation for maintenance.

Interjection, Leader of the Opposition: The Government sold $330 million in properties last year and $429 million was earmarked this year to sell.

Treasurer: The Leader of the Opposition had a chance to ask a decent question and she failed. The Government has allocated $13.5 million to the Aboriginal Housing Office. It is important to note, in particular for the National Party, that of that investment 50 per cent is in regional New South Wales.

There was some $34 million announced in support for those at risk of homelessness, including extra funding for temporary accommodation and assistance packages, of which $20 million is to accelerate and secure stable housing in the private rental market and $14 million is to increase the supply and flexibility of temporary accommodation across New South Wales, including accommodation suitable for self‑isolation.

In addition, there was $30 million to boost the Energy Accounts Payments Assistance Scheme.

Just after that announcement I, together with Melinda Pavey, the Minister for Water, Property and Housing, visited the Arncliffe housing estate, as the member for Sydney would know. There were around 13 units in that property that were fit for purpose. As part of that announcement, we have now increased that from 13 units to 142 housing units. Importantly, we met a lot of the construction workers, the tradies, as the Minister says, about 55 to 60 workers on that site during that time. It is a great outcome. Not only is the State getting a great social benefit but importantly we are keeping people in work during the pandemic.

In fact, for every $1 million that the NSW Land and Housing Corporation spends on building new social housing it creates around five to six new jobs. Recently we also announced construction in Newcastle of two projects worth $8 million, with 22 new homes and many construction jobs off the back of that investment.

It was not too long after that in June that we made a further announcement—this time with the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services—in relation to securing housing for the homeless. It was interesting to hear what the Opposition was saying because it was the largest housing response dedicated to rough sleepers in New South Wales history. A program to secure homes rapidly from the private rental market is underway. The Together Home program will be delivered by the New South Wales Government in collaboration with 19 community housing providers, specialist homelessness services and healthcare workers. We went back to Arncliffe where we met William, who was sleeping rough and is now in housing as a result of this investment. These are the types of projects, particularly as we are seeing a slowdown in population growth and a softening in the housing market— [Extension of time]

I say to the member for Sydney that these are exactly the types of projects that are easy to get up and running: shovel-ready projects that can support the slowdown in construction, particularly in that tail. We will continue to invest in those areas. I note that during the pandemic more than 570 people who were previously sleeping rough have been helped into secure housing as a result of the Government's work. These people have been supported from sleeping on the street into temporary accommodation, which is run by the Minister. They are now living in safe and stable housing with wraparound support from specialist homelessness services. We saw that firsthand.

It was great to see that in a very short period of time—from March to June. There had already been a benefit not just in the jobs that we had created but in great social outcomes. Without wanting to today give away the first announcement of the budget, I say to the member for Sydney—and I thank him for his interest in this space—that the Government will continue to invest in social and affordable housing. We will continue to make those record investments that our Government has made over the time it has been in government and the member will continue to see investment in social and affordable housing, driving construction and driving great social.

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