Grapevine December 14 2014 issue

GLEBE GRAPEVINE DECEMBER ISSUE

You heard it here!

The Grapevine wishes all our readers a happy
Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year
in a secure, decent and affordable home.

December 2014

Bays Precinct: Democracy or Profit?

Despite denials, it is clear the Baird Government is determined to ignore the community and international experts, and hand over our precious public harbour lands to private developers motivated only by profit. The community has developed Public Interest Principles which call on the NSW Government to:ensure that the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project follows a democratic and open process; enables public and private interests to come together creatively and imaginatively; ensures that the outcome will be a worthy of the site and of Sydney’s status as a global city; and properly protects the public interest.

Program for housing reform

In our next edition, the Grapevine will publish the responses of candidates for the 2015 State Election to our questions about housing. On page 2 of this issue, we set out the Hands off Glebe  program for housing reform.

The Mezzo—half baked

Developers of the site at the corner of Bay Street and Wentworth Park Road have lodged a DA with Sydney City Council. They want to build 213 units plus 4720m2 of commercial and retail space, in a 33 metre high development plus 2 levels of basement parking. If approved, it will be the densest development in Glebe. The site is particularly ill suited for such intense development because of noise and flooding. Undeterred by practicalities, the developers have been flogging unit sales for months. There are also serious fire risks in the current design.

PUTTING THE PUBLIC BACK INTO HOUSING

The Grapevine marks the death of Gough Whitlam. Among his achievements, he, and Tom Uren, gave us the Glebe Estate. At the time of the Whitlam Government, Liberals and Labor alike supported public housing. Like clean water and public education, access to decent housing was a cornerstone of a fairer society, where opportunity was not just squandered on the rich. Secure, affordable housing improves access to education and employment, and lessens dependence on health and welfare services.

Hands off Glebe’s  program for housing reform includes:

  • Public housing should be available to all who need it, who earn less than $90,000 per annum, and should consume no more than 25% of income.
  • Stop knocking down and selling off our homes. Housing is more than bricks and mortar. It is community, diversity and heritage.
  • Stop selling public land, including the 80 hectare Bays Precinct.
  • Recognize tenants’ rights to stay in their homes, except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Catch up with the maintenance backlog, with local maintenance teams employed by local housing offices.
  • Treat public housing tenants with respect.
  • Stop wasting public money on privately owned affordable housing schemes which benefit only the developers.
  • End negative gearing, which pushes up the price of housing by subsidizing speculation and tax avoidance.
  • The NSW Government reaps enormous and increasing revenues from housing by way of stamp duty and land tax. This year the budget is in surplus by $1.2 billion. Dedicate the income stream from these property taxes to build tens of thousands of new homes in New South Wales, thereby:

î  Providing homes to those on the waiting list.
î  Introducing real competition into the housing market. At present, developers build what they want, and charge what they like.
î  Creating jobs.

  • Recognise social housing as part of the whole housing sector, not part of the shrinking welfare system.

When affordable doesn’t mean affordable

What do you think when you hear the government talk about “affordable housing”? Inexpensive? Reasonably priced? Cheap enough for everyone to afford?

A rough estimation of affordability is 30% of gross income. This should leave enough to pay tax and other expenses like food, clothing, utilities, transport and medical costs.

In Australia there are a number of ‘affordable’ housing programs but the most common funding models are:

  1. a) a market rent reduction. This model is generally used by private developers who get a planning concession (for example more floors, smaller units) or a subsidy of up to $100,000 in return for providing some ‘affordable’ units generally for a limited period of time (often 10 years). The tenant in this model will pay 75% to 80% of the market rent.
  2. b) an income based model. This model is sometimes be used by government funded community housing providers. Some of the units are offered to a mix of people on very low and low to moderate incomes.

What do these two models mean in practice for someone living and working in Sydney?

Statistics kept by the NSW Government show that in the June quarter of 2014 the average market rent for a one bedroom unit in inner Sydney is $500 per week.  75% to 80% of the market rent means the tenant pays $375 to $400 per week. Using the 30% rule that person will need to earn $69,333 per year which is just under the median Sydney income. So a single person with an income of less $69,000 is unlikely to qualify for one of these units.

What about the second model? In the second model the landlord provides a mix of housing for people on very low to moderate incomes.  Only a small number of the units will be made available for those on very low incomes (defined as less than 50% of the median income $37,544). The remainder will be given to single people who earn between 51% (37,544) to 120% of median income ($90,105).

In addition because landlords usually want to maximise their income it is in their financial interests to house those households with an income as close as possible to the income limit. Again this means that those on an aged pension or on the minimum annual wage of $31,512 are unlikely to get access to this housing.

So next time someone tells you they are building affordable housing, ask how the rent will be calculated and  how many single people on a pension or on a minimum wage may be allocated one of those units.

You may be surprised how hard it is to get a direct answer.

What’s the difference?

Since Hands Off Glebe has been actively working in Glebe there have been many small victories and changes.

Hands off Glebe has been constant in keeping this and similar issues in the public eye through postcard and letter writing campaigns, petitions and protest gatherings and rallies in Glebe and outside Parliament House where we have twice met with Parliamentarians from different parties.

Hands off Glebe has been active in making submissions to enquiries into public housing, City of Sydney development proposals and letter writing to politicians.

Hands off Glebe members have attended a large number of public meetings focussing on public housing.

We aim to speak in the interests of public housing tenants and pushed for government commitment to the maintenance of public housing. We have joined with the tenants in Miller’s Point and formed links with other tenants groups in Sydney.

We  produce this newsletter, the Glebe Grapevine. Every second month a wonderful team of volunteers letterboxes over 5,000 copies across Glebe.

On the local front we have acted as advocates for a number of tenants on the Glebe Estate, Our campaign to Fix the Fences which involved a You Tube clip, meetings with FACS and letters to the Minister has resulted in a large number of fences being repaired and restored.

Some of this may have been “programmed maintenance” but  any of the fences we featured on social media were fixed within weeks, after years of tenants making complaints.

Hands Off Glebe has been busy making a difference.

Authorised by Denis Doherty. PO Box 145, Glebe NSW 2037

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

 

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