More needs to be done in Housing.
The PSA has welcomed the State Opposition’s plans to unite three Housing agencies. However, General Secretary Stewart Little has warned that “best intentions will be pointless unless a Labor Government puts strong supporting walls around a system that’s in terminal decline, thanks to a decade of ruthless privatisation”.
Under Labor’s plan three existing agencies will be merged to create the one-stop Homes NSW. It will combine Department of Communities and Justice Housing, the , Aboriginal Housing Officeand the Land and Housing Corporation.
“Bringing them under a single umbrella makes sense, but only if coupled with a serious plan to address one of the root causes of the state’s housing crisis: public housing getting swept up in the Coalition Government’s decade-long privatisation fire sale,” said Mr Little. “Since 2011 the Coalition Government has sold off 4205 public housing properties, adding $3.5 billion to the state’s coffers, and $82 billion of assets that once belonged to the people of NSW have been cashed out.
“Twelve per cent of the state’s land and buildings assets have been handed to the private sector.”
The State Government claims the sell-off was “asset recycling” – the idea that public housing stock sold into the private market could be replaced with new builds.
Yet in 2016, the Coalition promised to build 23,000 new social housing dwellings in the following decade as part of its Future Directions housing strategy. New social housing construction was to be funded through the $22 billion Communities Plus program.
Six years later just 10 per cent of these 23,000 dwellings has been delivered.
From 2017 and 2021, the number of new dwellings was actually 1000 fewer than the number of properties sold into private hands or removed from the system.
Victoria and Queensland will account for 80 per cent of Australia’s social housing construction between 2021 and 2024, while public housing in NSW – the nation’s most populous state – is languishing.
“Right now, a staggering 51,031 people are waiting for social housing, a 15 per cent spike on the previous year,” said Mr Little.
“In the same period the priority list has jumped 13 per cent to 6519.
“We know there’s a shortfall of 200,000 affordable homes across NSW, with homelessness services under enormous pressure as more and more people are priced out of a suffocatingly tight rental market.”
In Sydney, renting the average dwelling costs $560 a week, while Public Sector wage growth remains sluggish.
“With annual inflation surging up to 7.8 per cent, it’s little wonder that workers who have had pay cuts in real terms are struggling to pay for essentials such as housing,” said Mr Little.
“Hard-working Public Sector employees could deliver incredible results for our state through a revitalised Homes NSW if the right policies are placed around the mooted agency.
“This should start with an iron-clad commitment from Chris Minns that any government he leads would end the privatisation that has eroded NSW public housing.”
Mr Little said NSW Labor should instead commit to building public housing that stays in public hands.
“Homes NSW must then be given adequate funding to tackle maintenance issues that have left public housing in shocking states of disrepair.
“Until these happen, the most vulnerable people in our society will continue to be at the whims of landlords while they languish on a waiting list of more people than can fit into the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“This investment would be a significant impost on the state budget – there’s no way around that. But the overwhelming consensus of modern global research is that providing people with homes saves the public purse in the long run by drastically reducing expensive social problems like unemployment, drug abuse, chronic health conditions, and crime.
“Homes NSW needs solid guardrails. Otherwise, Labor’s merger pledge simply doesn’t stand up.”1 comment