Greens want the City of Sydney to lead on affordable housing

Sylvie Ellsmore. Photo: Sylvie Ellsmore / Facebook

The New South Wales Greens' campaign in the City of Sydney (CoS) is focussed around council making a major investment in affordable and public housing.

Their candidate for Lord Mayoral position Sylvie Ellsmore told an election launch on July 17 that council can “do so much more” to address the housing affordability crisis, including “through direct investment in building new, council‐owned public housing and support for resident‐led co-operatives”.

Ellsmore is a lawyer and policy advisor, a former Marrickville councillor, and works for the University of Sydney. She said CoS can do more to “stand with residents and communities fighting to prevent the mass sell‐off and redevelopment of public housing across the inner‐city”.

“It’s too late to stop what has been lost in some areas, but it is not too late for the City to throw its strength behind communities struggling to protect existing public housing in places like Glebe, Everleigh and Waterloo.”

Ellsmore said the council’s current affordable housing stock of 1000 units “has barely made a dent”.

“We should be aiming for at least 20% affordable council housing. London City Council has 37% council housing currently, for example. Council could invest directly, or work with local residents and Aboriginal communities, to build new housing as a long-term co-investor.”

Ellsmore told Green Left that more affordable housing would be the single biggest factor to stem growing inequality and that the to create 2000 more affordable homes over four years.

“Council should build its own housing, by itself and together with housing cooperatives. The CoS has considerable wealth and assets, which could be invested in public housing and other community facilities.”

Regarding First Nations’ people’s rights, Ellsmore said as “Sydney was ground zero for invasion and colonisation” there needed to be “more official recognition of Black resistance history and the civil rights struggle in Redfern”.

“Support for self-determination must mean genuine power-sharing,” Ellsmore said. “This includes participatory budgeting, with Indigenous involvement in key decision-making.

Involving residents in participatory budgeting, and removing barriers to local groups accessing public buildings, especially smaller groups with limited funds, were other important initiatives.

Reversing the trend towards outsourcing council services is another key Green policy. “Council services should generally be council-run,” she said, including waste management, which has been contracted out to private operators.”

Ellsmore said that, globally, “councils set the example for grassroots democracy” and that the CoS could do more to create opportunities for genuine participatory governance”.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who was first elected in 2004, is campaigning on the theme of “Transforming Sydney”. That includes delivering an extensive capital works program, continuing to provide free rates to pensioners, creating new parklands and extending harbour foreshore walks and building more childcare places.

Moore claims that by levying developers and discounting City-owned land to community housing providers, she has delivered more than 1000 affordable homes, and more than 600 are in pipeline.

The Labor candidate for Mayor is Linda Scott, a current councillor and president of Local Government NSW, the peak organisation for general and special purpose councils.