Will NSW Labor’s ‘once in a generation’ plan fix the housing crisis?

June 24, 2024
Public housing campaigners at Waterloo Estate last December. Labor still says it will be demolished. Photo: Action for Public Housing

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey announced on June 18 a “once in a generation” $5.1 billion addition, over four years, to arrest the state’s decline in new social housing.

Labor also claims to be “rebuild[ing] our public housing system after a decade of neglect”.

The new budget for housing includes $4.4 billion (about $1.1 billion a year), with the remainder coming from Homes NSW, the state housing body.

But critics say it is unclear how the mix of public, social and affordable housing is to be worked out.

They are concerned that solutions are not being found for the 58,000 people on the housing wait list and the 9000 people who urgently need shelter now.

Forty-four sites of “surplus government land” across Sydney and regional areas have been made available for redevelopment.

Labor’s plan involves building a mix of “public”, subsidised and private dwellings.

The program will build 8400 social homes, of which 6200 will be new and 2200 will be “replacement homes”.

The Building Homes for NSW program will restore and fix more than 33,500 social homes.

The plan states that Homes NSW will have the first opportunity to build housing on the identified sites, followed by the state-owned developer Landcom and private developers.

The budget also allocates $200 million for First Nations housing and more than $500 million for homelessness services.

Half of the new homes will be reserved for women and their children fleeing domestic violence.

Homelessness NSW CEO Dominique Rowe said victims/survivors need more help. “Three-thousand homes for people escaping domestic and family violence means that women and children who are fleeing very violent homes will have a place to go to.

“We still have 58,000 people on the waiting list for social homes in NSW and we need to do more than what we've got at the moment.”

Rachel Evans, Action for Public Housing campaigner, told Green Left: “We don't know if the 8400 homes promised will be publicly-built and publicly-owned.

“We are asking for more information.”

Evans, a member of Socialist Alliance, said: “What is needed is more public housing in perpetuity. Social housing is the privatisation of public land and homes. Turning housing into a commodity is what got us into the housing crisis in the first place.”

Evans said the housing campaign group has been trying to stop the demolition and privatisation of the Waterloo estate, inner Sydney, for eight years.

“We want the government to back away from demolishing and privatising Waterloo and other public housing estates. If Labor cared about solving the housing crisis, it would return to a real public works program and announce a mass public housing build.”

Evans said Waterloo residents were told a month ago that they will receive eviction notices sometime from July.

Greens NSW spokesperson Abigail Boyd said the budget is hampered by a “small-target” strategy that doesn’t help the state’s most vulnerable.

“Homelessness has doubled in the last two years, and this budget is making a commitment to build less than half of the amount of social housing that is needed just to keep pace with the increasing numbers of people needing help.”

She said Labor has “failed to implement even the modest tax reforms required to keep pace with other states”, including property and luxury vehicle taxes.

The Greens are calling on the government to raise taxes on big consulting firms, gig worker platforms, religious institutions, the super-rich, gambling companies and the fossil fuel industry.

They say Labor should introduce a “supplementary banking levy to capture some of the windfall profits that the big banks make out of mortgagee”. Boyd said even a modest supplementary banking levy could raise $500 million each year.

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