Social housing going backwards in NSW

Article published 8 September 2021

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THE NSW Government is spending millions less on social housing every year and as a result social housing as a proportion of total housing stock has decreased consistently over the last ten years.

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW commissioned Centre for Social Impact, a national research centre, to develop a research report on the social housing system in NSW.

The research found that NSW total spending on social housing in 2019-20 was $1.68 billion which is the lowest level of investment in five years. Given this reduction in spending it’s no surprise that the social housing stock of NSW has decreased as a proportion of total housing.

The NSW Government has committed to build 9,386 new social housing properties from 2016-2026. This is despite calls from economists, housing specialists and service providers recommending 5,000 properties are needed to be built every year to match population growth.

Although housing stock development is down and social housing is receiving less funding, it was found that the number of households on the waiting list for NSW social housing has decreased.

In 2010, the number of applicants on the waiting list peaked at over 83,000, in 2020 that number dropped to just under 53,000. Researchers said that a change in the counting rules in 2017 meant that suspended applicants were no longer counted and thus made a significant contribution to this reduction.

Applicants are suspended and not counted on the waiting list if they are in hospital and unable to accept an offer, fail to respond to annual checks on eligibility, if they are a prior social housing tenant have debts of more than $500 from previous tenancies and are not making repayments, as well as several other reasons that revolve around an applicant behaving poorly to social housing staff.

Instead of finding reasons to kick people off the social housing waiting list perhaps the NSW Government should be improving its service to understand why people are unable to repay debts or engage in actions that end up in suspension from the waiting list.

It is the responsibility of the NSW Government to ensure that all citizens of NSW have access to a basic human right – shelter. As a matter of absolute urgency, the NSW Government should commit to increasing social housing stock by at least 5,000 properties every year.

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