NSW Labor’s affordable housing policy is out

Article published 8 February 2023

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NSW Labor’s 2023 affordable housing policy promises “thousands of real homes each and every year in perpetuity for people to live in at an affordable price”.

Affordable housing is not about first-home buyers.

Affordable housing is rental accommodation generally intended for people working in not-well-paid jobs in essential-services sectors, such as nurses, police, firefighters and schoolteachers.

Affordable housing is often confused with social housing, but the two are different.

Social housing is secure and affordable rental housing for people on low incomes with housing needs. It includes public, community and Aboriginal housing.

NSW Labor appears to recognise that helping first-home buyers is not the be-all and end-all of housing policy.

Good government housing policy recognises that buying your own home is an aspiration, but that living with dignity in a home is a basic necessity. Dignity in housing means your home is affordable (to you personally), in good repair, big enough for your household and located where work and community are.

That’s where good government housing policy starts.

NSW Labor’s affordable housing policy says that, if elected, it will conduct a full audit of all publicly owned land.

Suitable parcels will be put on a new Affordable Housing Land Register. This presumably means land set aside for affordable housing can’t be withdrawn by subsequent governments.

Land on the register will be fast-tracked for development through a government agency which already exists, called UrbanGrowth. It will have a mandate of 25 per cent affordable housing. UrbanGrowth will be given greater powers to push development through.

At the same time, there will be a 15 per cent affordable housing mandate on privately developed land. This means that 15 per cent of new dwellings or floor space on any land to be developed must be for affordable housing.

NSW Labor says that it will work closely with Community Housing Providers “to formulate the rules around this [affordable housing] policy”. It’s not clear if, say, a nurse who moves into a high-paying health administration job will be able to stay in affordable housing or will have to move to make way for somebody on a lower income.

Unfortunately, the elephant in NSW Labor’s policy room is social housing. That’s housing for people unable to afford affordable housing.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that NSW Labor said it would improve the delivery of social housing in NSW by merging three existing government agencies (the Land and Housing Corporation, Aboriginal Housing Office and Department of Communities and Justice Housing) into a single body, Homes NSW.

However, NSW Labor has made no commitment to building new stock in numbers.

CPSA has written to both the NSW Government and the NSW Opposition asking them to address the glaring shortfall in social housing needed to eradicate the 51,000 households on the general waiting list and end homelessness as well as asking them to clarify their policies on social housing.

For more information please email our media contact at media@cpsa.org.au

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