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.
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 email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org www.handsoffglebe.org