Affordable housing the ‘greatest need’ in Parramatta, says council candidate

released the statement below on August 21.

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“Parramatta City Council has a civic responsibility to respond urgently to the report from the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) that the lack of affordable housing has reached crisis levels”, said Kerryn Williams, a Socialist Alliance candidate for the Woodville ward in the Parramatta council election.

ACOSS’s annual Community Sector Survey found that the greatest area of social need is housing, and that 81% of housing and homeless services could not meet demand.

“The Parramatta local government area has the largest number of homeless households of all Western Sydney local government areas, and that number is growing”, Williams said.

“On top of that, soaring rent prices, rising costs of living and higher unemployment now mean that almost one-quarter of Parramatta residents are in severe rent stress, spending more than one-third of their weekly income on rent. Some households spend more than half of their income on rent.”

Williams, who lives in rental accommodation in Harris Park, said more than 50% of Sydney’s low-income private renters are experiencing rental stress, the highest rate of any capital city in Australia.

But she said “the crisis is not only restricted to renters. Mortgage stress is also a massive problem for low-to-moderate income households. NSW Shelter figures show that 44.9% of NSW mortgagors are experiencing mortgage stress. The number of property repossession applications has increase by more than 30% in the last two years.”

Successive state and federal governments have slashed spending on public housing, which is now at a record low. The public housing waiting list is growing — last year there were 60,444 applicants for public housing in NSW.

“But it is not good enough to blame the state government”, Williams said. "There is much that local government can do if it is really concerned about housing. It has the power to act on behalf of the community if it has the political will.”

Initiatives proposed by the Socialist Alliance ticket in the upcoming elections include: that Parramatta Council end the practice of allowing property developments and high-rises that force out poorer people living in areas deemed attractive to developer investment; that council commit to the goals of 20% public or affordable housing in the local government area within 10 years; and to reduce the number of homeless people by 50% within 12 months. The existing Parramatta Council Homelessness Policy aims to reduce it by only 7% by 2013.

Williams said: “To achieve those goals, Parramatta council will need to devote significantly more resources to facilitating, building and maintaining community housing, and to putting pressure on state and federal government for increased funding and policy changes to redistribute housing wealth.

“In the end, to help solve the crises of homelessness, unaffordable rents and mortgage stress, Parramatta residents need a fighting council that is an extension of the community and the people who live here.

“We believe that access to decent, secure and affordable housing is a fundamental human right, and Socialist Alliance councillors will make it a priority to work for sustainable, socially balanced development to meet the housing needs of all residents in Parramatta.”