Government Opposes Housing Affordability Measures

Today we called on the government to take concrete steps to improve housing affordability in Sydney. Their response shows just how completely out of touch they are on this issue. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 13:20 :42 ): I move:

That this House:

(1)Recognises the housing affordability crisis in New South Wales, with a large number of low- and middle-income households now in housing stress.

(2)Notes the long overdue recognition that inclusionary zoning has a role to play in the provision of affordable housing in New South Wales, particularly in Greater Sydney.

(3)Calls on the Government to set ambitious affordable housing targets of 30 per cent for all significant new developments, including the Central to Eveleigh precinct, the Parramatta Road renewal and the Sydney Olympic Park redevelopment.

The issue of inclusionary zones is just one of many mechanisms available to this Government and to governments across the country to address the issue of housing affordability. Inclusionary zoning defines a situation whereby certain patches of land have affordable housing targets set. In setting those targets, we start addressing the real issues around affordable housing. People in New South Wales earning very low to moderate incomes are increasingly unable to access housing that is affordable. Demand for affordable housing consistently exceeds supply by a vast degree. The competition for affordable housing adds to the upward pressure on rents and house prices, leading to a decline in the number of available affordable properties.

Last week, Anglicare released its latest rental affordability snapshot. It found, yet again, that affordable housing options for people on low incomes, for families depending on income support, for single people surviving on the aged pension and for young people on the Youth Allowance just do not exist in Greater Sydney and the Illawarra. For couples on the aged pension and for anybody earning the minimum wage, there is an extreme shortage of suitable, affordable properties. We have heard governments at State and Federal levels debating housing affordability. Members say that they want to address affordability and they keep waving this magic wand called "supply".

On the one hand governments say that there is a record amount of supply, but if they were to open the Domain section of a certain newspaper—I provide a level of solidarity to the staff who are currently on strike—they would see that there are also record house prices. It seems that the more supply goes up, the more house prices go up. So maybe the magic wand of supply is not the answer. I am not saying that inclusionary zoning in itself is the answer. It is one solution that is available. Let me get a little pointy headed for a moment and explain that inclusionary zoning is a planning tool that can be used by governments to increase the supply of affordable housing. Mandating targets for affordable housing dwellings within new developments is a guaranteed and proven way to supply homes where rents are affordable and will stay affordable.

Inclusionary zoning requires developers to deliver a proportion of dwellings within a development as affordable housing units or to make a monetary payment to build the affordable housing elsewhere. The Greater Sydney Commission's district plans include proposals for inclusionary zoning. While this is welcome, I question whether targets of 5 to 10 per cent of affordable housing is sufficient when we are facing such a housing crisis in this State. That is really concerning. Those targets will not prove to be a game changer. We need targets that are much more ambitious, and we also need to make sure that there are not caveats, such as areas being deemed feasible, thereby making those areas the only places where those targets would apply.

The New South Wales Federation of Housing Associations has called for targets up to 30 per cent, which would come a lot closer to addressing the desperate need for affordable housing across Sydney. There is no reason why those targets of 30 per cent cannot be met by government-led projects or in developments where the land has been rezoned to increase its value. In the electorate of Newtown, there has been rezoning along the Parramatta Road renewal and around the Central to Eveleigh development. In those areas there is the potential to seriously address the housing affordability crisis in this city by mandating high levels of affordable housing. If the Premier and this Government want to address the issue of housing affordability then that is something that is open to them right now.

We need to recognise that there is a desperate need to address housing affordability in this State. Any member of Parliament who has come to Macquarie Street this week or in past weeks will have seen a growing number of people sleeping rough not far from Parliament House. While we debate this in the Chamber as a theoretical problem, and we hear spin about the issues of how we are going to solve housing affordability, the rates of homelessness in this State go up, and people are sleeping rough just outside this building. The Government has the opportunity to address this immediately by putting in place measures such as inclusionary zoning which would address the issue of the shortfall of affordability housing in our community. According to 2011 census data, 28,191 people in New South Wales were experiencing homelessness. That means that more than 28,000 people do not have a place to call home. Meanwhile the Government rezones and develops areas in our inner city without mandating targets for affordable housing. This is a massive loss. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this Government to address housing affordability.

Of course, inclusionary zoning is not a silver bullet that on its own will address the housing affordability crisis. But committing to ambitious, affordable housing targets through inclusionary zoning is a practical step that would deliver large numbers of affordable housing properties. The Greens and many housing advocates are committed to inclusionary zoning. It could be a simple solution to address the crisis in housing affordability in this State. There are many examples, both here in Australia and overseas—in cities including London and New York—where inclusionary zoning has had real impacts. I call on the New South Wales Government to urgently commit to ambitious and mandated affordable housing targets in all substantial new developments, particularly in government-led projects where the Government can control development—in places like the Central to Eveleigh Corridor, the Parramatta Road renewal, at the Bays Precinct and at the Sydney Olympic Park redevelopment.

Mr RAY WILLIAMS ( Castle HillMinister for Multiculturalism, and Minister for Disability Services) (13:27:46): I move an amendment to the motion, as follows:

That the motion be amended by removing all words after "That" with a view to inserting instead:

"this House recognises the work of the New South Wales Government in providing more housing for New South Wales in order to address the housing supply and put downward pressure on housing prices."

It is a well-known fact that, unfortunately, after 2011 the Government was left with a massive housing shortfall right across New South Wales, but particularly in the Sydney metropolitan area. For years, the previous Labor Government had neglected to release enough land and neglected to provide sustainable and suitable infill development. It relied upon the existing infrastructure, but the existing infrastructure could not support infill development. The Labor Government failed to provide services to the north-west and south-west areas of the Sydney metropolitan area and failed to provide public transport and road infrastructure and the necessary services such as sewerage and water.

When a government fails to address all levels of service delivery and to release enough land for sustainable housing, a situation develops where demand outstrips supply. This Government is still addressing that shortfall in New South Wales. Currently, the demand for homes, particularly by young families, means that there is not enough supply to push the spiralling prices down. Prices are levelling to some degree; we are not seeing the huge spikes that we saw a year or 18 months ago.


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