Housing minister derides equitable housing proposals

Part of the packed housing forum on July 12 organised by the Sydney Alliance. Photo: Pip Hinman
July 14, 2017

New South Wales housing minister Anthony Roberts told a 600-strong meeting on July 12 that the main solution to Sydney’s housing affordability crisis was to create more supply. He derided those arguing for affordable rental housing targets as “simplistic”.

The Sydney Alliance’s second “housing assembly” included Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Churches Housing executive officer Magnus Linder, Greater Sydney Commission CEO Sarah Hill and several people who presented their personal experience of housing stress.

Nadine Carrick, a full-time town planning student, told the meeting 70% of her income had to cover her rent. She said the cost of living in Sydney outstripped her income by about $200 a week. “We all have a right to this city and to be part of the community and we demand action”, she said.

Linder, who is also the chair of Sydney Alliance Housing Team, said people often have to choose between paying their rent and going to the dentist. He said councils should be given greater freedoms to set affordable rental housing policies. Roberts said the government is waiting until after the local government elections to reveal its new planning powers.

The Sydney Alliance is pushing for at least 30% of new homes built on public land and at least 15% of new homes in private developments to be affordable rentals.

Roberts used his response time to castigate others for “useless sloganeering”. He talked up the NSW government’s commitment to “solving” the housing affordability crisis by focusing on increasing the housing supply. He said there had been a new record of 65,000 homes completed in the year to March and ridiculed the idea of targets, saying they would reduce the supply of affordable rental housing because they would make developments “economically unviable”.

He also said that at least 12,000 affordable homes had been built since 2010. University of NSW’s City Futures Research Centre said last year that the housing affordability crisis is being artificially inflated by up to 90,000 properties remaining vacant across metropolitan Sydney because of favourable tax incentives.

Bill Randolph, from the UNSW research centre, told the meeting that inclusionary rezoning has worked well in many large cities, including New York and London. He said the uplift, or growth in Sydney’s land values, needed to be more equitably shared with communities and the government needed to restrain land speculators.

The Sydney Alliance is organising a number of actions aimed at pressuring the NSW government to commit to affordable housing. Find out more at Sydney Alliance.

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