Housing in the news – Oct 24 2014

Governments sleep at the wheel as housing affordability crashes

16 October 2014

The Australian Council of Social Service today urged Australian Governments to take coordinated action to tackle the worsening housing supply crisis.

“New data shows that the housing supply crisis is getting worse and this is taking a heavy toll on first home buyers and low and moderate income renters who are under increasing financial stress,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.

The new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare highlighted the serious gap between housing demand and supply, with as estimated shortage of 284,000 dwellings in 2011 projected to increase due to population growth, ageing and decreasing household size.

“‘We know that exorbitant rents, particularly in our major cities, is placing a great deal of stress on families, with 47% of low-income earners paying more than 30% of their income in rent. This is one of the major factors driving people into poverty.”

“Commonwealth Rent Assistance has a major impact on households’ rental affordability, with the AIHW report showing a 27% point reduction in the number of low-income recipients in housing stress after receiving this targeted assistance. Our concern is that this vital rent assistance payment is not keeping up with the rise in community living standards and call for an immediate increase in the maximum rate. The gap between the maximum rate of Rent Assistance and average rent has grown steadily because CRA is linked to the CPI, rather than to national average increases in rent.

“The report also found that social housing schemes, which are highly targeted to people in greatest need, have been extremely effective, however waiting lists continue to grow and supply is not keeping up. As at 30 June 2013, there were over 217,000 households on waiting lists for social housing. There is a critical shortage of over 500,000 rental properties that are affordable and available to low income renters which must be addressed.

“While Australia’s housing situation becomes ever more critical, governments seem to be asleep at the wheel. There is no national affordable housing strategy and growing uncertainty about the future of funding for housing and homelessness investment and programs.

“The most recent budget reduced funding to the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which will result in a loss of 12,000 affordable housing dwellings. At the same time, it extended funding for homelessness services for only another 12 months, with growing uncertainty again in the sector about the future of services and those who rely on them for support.

“The Federal Government has a vital leadership role to play in setting national housing policy to ensure all arms of government are working towards increasing the supply of affordable housing stock, alleviating rental stress and ensure pathways out of homelessness. This cannot be achieved without changes to current housing tax settings which encourage speculative investment in existing housing stock, inflate house prices and do little to increase affordable housing stock,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas – 0419 626 155

Social housing shortage leaves nearly 4000 ‘at risk’ applicants out in the cold PDF Print

23 October 2014

The community sector is calling for urgent action to address the State’s social housing shortage ahead of the upcoming election as new figures show tens of thousands of people across NSW are left waiting, sometimes for over ten years.

Council of Social Service of NSW CEO Tracy Howe said figures released today by the Department of Family and Community Services show the social housing shortage is leaving 3941 people waiting for urgent accommodation despite many being at risk of harm, experiencing homelessness or having a severe, ongoing medical condition.

“These numbers alone show the need for swift action to address the State’s social housing shortages.

“In the past people allocated to the priority housing list would receive housing relatively speedily. These are people experiencing a crisis and they need a stable roof over their head. But they are waiting because there isn’t enough accommodation available.”

Ms Howe said the 3941 people with priority status waiting were included in the nearly 60 000 households on waiting lists to access social housing.

“A stable roof over your head is a basic need. Without one people find it almost impossible to get and keep a job, to send their kids to school or to address any other ongoing issues in their lives.

“Services across the sector are telling us that one of the biggest, ongoing issues the people they work with face is finding stable, affordable housing.”

Ms Howe said recent reports that the NSW economy was now the number 1 performer mean the state is in the best position in nearly a decade to address this challenge.

“A clear, funded plan supported by all sides of politics is needed to fix the issue in the long term. Affordable and social housing that is close to jobs, health services and public transport improves people’s ability to contribute to economic and social life and has a positive effect on the wider economy.

“Before the upcoming election we’ll be looking for a plan from all sides of politics to address the housing shortage.

“We all need to recognise that supply of social and affordable housing is a key infrastructure challenge facing the state and all future infrastructure planning must feature growth in social and affordable housing as a critical element.”

NCOSS launched its full election platform last night. It is available for download at speakplanact.net

Media Contact: Laura Maclean, 0412 867 658


Residents take action on Cowper Street mess

Media Release
Friday, October 24, 2014


A rally to be held at 12 noon on Saturday 25 October on the corner of Bay and Wentworth Streets, Glebe will demand a massive increase in spending on public housing and its maintenance and an immediate start to building public housing on the Cowper Street site. Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker and ALP candidate for the seat Verity Firth will speak at the rally.

A recent NSW Council of Social Service report shows that that 56 per cent of people who are eligible for social housing in NSW are missing out.

Yesterday Minister Gabrielle Upton announced a rise of 3.6 per cent in the public housing waiting list to 59,000 people. The average waiting time is four years with some unfortunate families waiting up to 10 years.

The waiting list for public housing is now over 27,000, with an average waiting time of four years.

The NSWCOSS report also reveals that New South Wales has nearly 900,000 people or 14.6 per cent of its population living in poverty, more than any other state.

“Enough is enough,” Denis Doherty, spokesperson for Hands off Glebe, said. “The NSW Government has failed to respond. They do not even have a housing minister.

“Hands off Glebe asks why the Baird Government can’t build new public housing on the site in Glebe bounded by Bay and Cowper Streets. Following demolition of good homes and the loss of a community, trees, gardens and birds, the site has remained vacant for four years.

“It has become painfully clear that the Baird Government does not care about public and affordable housing.

“Instead they are running down public housing with sell offs, demolitions and evictions while the housing crisis deepens,” Denis Doherty said.

“With the Cowper Street site, the Baird Government has continued a policy begun by the previous NSW ALP Government of planning to sell off half the site to private developers, but has left the site empty for years.

“Hands off Glebe has been campaigning for this site to remain devoted to public and affordable housing but the Government continues to ignore our demands.

“We feel it’s time to take more action to bring attention to public housing.  We do not intend to drop off our campaign any time soon,” Denis Doherty concluded.

For more information: Contact Denis Doherty 0418 290 663

Visit our website:  www.handsoffglebe.org

Grapevine Oct 2014

October 2014

Government must invest in public housing

Recent comments by NSW housing Minister Gabrielle Upton are revealing as to the thinking of the NSW Liberal government. Ms Upton said that public housing properties at The Rocks, which her department is in the process of selling off, were “not suitable for public housing” even though many tenants had spent a lifetime there. What she really meant was that, in her eyes, unless you can afford a multi-million dollar mortgage or pay thousands a week in rent, you don’t deserve to live in a nice house in a pleasant area.  Ms Upton it seems would rather move such people far from where many of them were born and had built communities and raised families. It also suits the NSW government agenda because the Abbott government has promised a 15 per cent bonus to the states for privatising public assets.

Upton claims that “it is simply not fair” to those on the social housing waiting list for the government to maintain these properties. If so, the question arises – why were these properties allowed to decay over the decades under both Liberal and Labor and why are the most vulnerable expected to pay the bill? It is also strange that these and other inner city properties were suitable for low income people when they were regarded as “slums”. The fact is spending on housing by governments has been falling for decades even though the private market in places where jobs are available is increasingly failing to provide sufficient housing stock at affordable prices.  That’s partly because high density housing has a bad name after some monstrous public housing blocks in places like Waterloo and the failure of successive governments to create an efficient public transport network.

But it is also because there are no votes in public housing. That view has to change. There is no economic reason why governments cannot build attractive, affordable housing that can be rented out to those on moderate incomes.

This problem is not confined to Australia, and stems from the philosophy that everything can be provided by the private sector and that anything governments do is “useless” or, if not, unaffordable. It’s a view that refuses to tax those who can afford it the most, including big business. Why? Because big business centred propaganda backed up by right-wing media have captured government policy through political donations, threats or outright bribery.

Bureau of Statistics figures show that back in 1983/84 state and federal governments contributed over 10% of total dwellings approved that year (Source ABS 8731.0). By 2013/14 that contribution had fallen to 1.5%. And while the population had increased by 33% over that time, the total number of all dwellings, both private and public being approved each year had increased by only 21%, despite massive subsidisation of property investors, through negative gearing and depreciation allowances. If government had continued to make the same percentage contribution it made in 1984 there would be another half million dwellings in Australia.

Government assistance for housing has been either ineffective or has arguably made the problem worse. Rental assistance, while essential for individuals, only increases the demand for limited rental accommodation and first home owner assistance just raises home prices if not enough homes are being built. The real answer is to increase housing stock and governments must play a greater part.


Bays Precinct — another Barangaroo?

On August 4 a packed meeting heard that community representatives on the Bays Precinct Taskforce had been pushed aside as the Baird Government declared full steam ahead with its Bays Precinct plans. The Bays Precinct consists of 80 hectares of public land including the heritage listed White Bay Power Station, Glebe Island, White Bay, Rozelle Bay, Rozelle Rail Yards, Blackwattle Bay and the Sydney Fish Market.

The development will be directed by UrbanGrowth NSW, a government body made up of business, real estate, media and Liberal Party representatives.

The main theme to emerge from the meeting is that consultation in Sydney is a farce. It is just an information session and then the developers, the State Government and the City Council do what they like.

The meeting was united on the need to mobilise our combined frustrations into a coherent rejection of what is proposed. Unless there is significant resistance to the Baird Government’s proposals, Glebe and the other suburbs surrounding the Bays Precinct will swamped by high rise, increased traffic and a loss of quality of life. Barangaroo again!

The Glebe Grapevine suggests the Bays Precinct development should focus on at least 70 per cent social and affordable housing, parks and job creation through a working harbour. We do not need another private residential development with the cheapest home at over $875,000,. We need homes for people on low incomes.

Public housing inquiry finds major problems

The release of the report from the NSW parliamentary inquiry into social, public and affordable housing, initiated by The Greens, has recommended key areas for reform tothe housing crisis. The report vindicates the views of tenants and their supporters that the current system is unsustainable, needs tenant involvement and lacks investment.

The inquiry recommends the State consider appointing a dedicated Housing Minister and establishing an advisory council. It also highlights the government’s failure to deliver policies for the future of social and affordable housing. So no strategy, no planning, so investment. Just more sell-offs and more frustration for public housing residents and those on the ever-increasing waiting lists

It found a great deal of secrecy around the widely condemned sell-off of public housing in Millers Point. It also found the sale of public housing started under Labor will continue under the Liberal government. Rather than providing more desperately-needed housing, the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by these sales will  be quickly swallowed up by the bureaucracy and the massive maintenance deficit that the previous Labor government allowed to blow-out. There is no commitment for new investment in new housing from these and other housing sales.

There is currently a waiting list for housing of 58,000 households. In the next two years, an extra 28,000 households are expected to join that queue.

The findings of the inquiry should be adopted by the government as a start to address the housing crisis.

We need to work together to pressure the government to support public housing tenants, stop the sell off and build more urgently needed houses.


Cowper Street Postcards

Hands off Glebe has launched Cowper Street postcards calling on the government to use the whole site for public and affordable housing. The postcards are in Glebe shops or text Cowper Street to 0418 290 663 to sign a card and get your friends and family to do the same.

Democracy denied

Thanks to the support of the New South Wales government and Fred Nile, the Shooters and Fishers Party’s plan to remove the long-standing democratic principle of one-vote-one value from local government elections became a reality when legislation was passed on 17 September.

In a blatant attempt to gerrymander the system, business will now have two votes in City of Sydney elections while residents will have only one. The compulsory double business vote is clearly intended to give power to the Liberals and developers and to defeat Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s team

Premier Baird has taken us back over 100 years!  We need to resist these new voting rules. Send us your views to glebegrapevine@gmail.com or mail us at the address below.

Glebe Community Development Project Funding Cut

The Glebe Community Development Project (GCDP) has been told by Housing NSW that its funding ($35,000 pa) will cease from December 2014. GCDP work increases residents’ participation in a range of community activities, reduces social isolation and makes a significant contribution to the social well-being of the community. Support Sydney Council request to the NSW Government to continue funding the project.

Spotless Campaign Rolls On

We have received a lengthy but unsatisfactory reply from the corporate regulator ASIC and nothing from the NSW Government except to say they are considering a reply to our letters. Federal Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann has not replied at all to our letter sent in July.

We ask public housing tenants to send us details of the time taken for repairs to be done, how many times they had to come back and finish the job. We need a dossier on Spotless. Help us build it. Your details will not be made public. Contact us at the address below.

Support our Local Historian

Max Solling, Glebe’s great local historian, has just published a new book on the history of the Manning area (Taree, Wingham, etc). Max originally came from Taree but their loss is our gain!  Buy his book Town and Countryfrom Gleebooks.  In this month when the NRL has held their Grand Final Max’s other book An Act of Bastardry about how the Glebe Rugby League Club was axed by NSWRL is very timely.



Glebe Street Fair—Sunday 16 November


The Glebe Grapevine is a publication of Hands Off Glebe Inc.

Contact: P.O. Box 145, Glebe NSW 2037.

Ring Denis on 0418 290 663 or Julie on 0426 503 351

E: glebegrapevine@gmail.com   www.handsoffglebe.org