Question Time: Affordable Housing

Today we asked the Minister for Planning Rob Stokes what the Government is doing to ensure affordable housing is prioritised. 


Ms JENNY LEONG: My question is directed to the Minister for Planning. Given the need to ensure key workers and others who are not super rich can continue to live in our city, what is the Government doing to ensure affordable housing is prioritised in the redevelopment and sell-off of government land, particularly for the Central to Eveleigh and Parramatta Road urban renewal projects?

Mr ROB STOKES: I thank the member for Newtown for her question and for her advocacy on behalf of her constituency. Housing affordability has been vexing cities right across the world, and Sydney is no exception. Housing affordability is a relative term, but the notion of affordable housing involves several discrete categories: social housing, low-cost market housing and key workers housing, or city-shaping housing as it is called. Each of those different categories will require different instruments to activate investment in them as well as to provide a mix of diverse housing types and tenures to meet the needs of a diverse and growing community. One of the great challenges that has been generated in New South Wales is the huge levels of investment this Government is making in infrastructure, which is creating large levels of economic growth and creating challenges in housing affordability.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Wollongong to order for the second time.

Mr ROB STOKES: Obviously the first thing we must do, which is necessary but not sufficient, is to increase general housing supply, and we are getting on with that job. As I mentioned in this place yesterday, in the past 12 months there have been more than 67,000 approvals, which is the highest level in recorded history, demonstrated currently with about 62,000 housing starts over the past 12 months. As I said, that is necessary but, by itself, not sufficient. That is why as part of our legislation to establish the Greater Sydney Commission, section 9 (d) addresses a key objective of the legislation to increase the supply of affordable housing, and that will be reflected in the district plans as they are rolled out during the course of this year and beyond.

That is also why section 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act refers to affordable housing being a key objective of that legislation, which has been demonstrated through the use of State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] 70 and also the affordable rental housing SEPP, which has seen thousands of new affordable dwellings provided in Sydney and right across New South Wales. But in relation specifically to the sites mentioned in the member's question, which are key city-shaping sites within the development control of urban growth, I am reminded of a quotation by eminent British architect Richard Rogers, who remarked:

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges facing our cities or to the housing crisis, but the two issues need to be considered together.

From an urban design and planning point of view, the well-connected open city is a powerful paradigm and an engine for integration and inclusivity.

In relation to Central to Eveleigh particularly, as members may be aware, this project involves the transformation of approximately 100 hectares or so of government-owned land around the three-kilometre stretch of rail corridor from Central to McDonaldtown and Erskineville stations. One of our goals is to create a cluster of new innovative and creative jobs that will benefit from links with existing and enhanced education and medical facilities, easy connections to the central business district [CBD] and dynamic new workspaces. After more than two years of consultation studies and assessments we, as a government, have an ambition for this area to connect Sydney's diverse and vibrant communities, to protect existing communities in that vicinity, to strengthen the global city, and to make it an even better place for existing and new residents to live in areas close to where there are jobs. In order to make sure we achieve sustainable and inclusive growth, the uplift in population will be supported by integrated transport planning and also a foundational focus on the need to provide for affordable and social housing as part of this new community.

What one can expect in the plan is choice and diversity in new homes and a range of new tenures for new homes to allow for a whole range of diverse communities and families to live in this area—new transport and community facilities, dynamic and popular places to work, as well as new parks, green streets, railway crossings to bridge the gaps between communities on either side of the railway lines, heritage improvements and sustainable infrastructure. Working with the community and experts, we know that we have to approach the Central to Eveleigh projects through the lens of design excellence as well. We know that higher densities will be required around train stations. To maintain amenity, that means a transition to surrounding neighbourhoods. It means that we need variegation in streetscape and a mix of uses; we need a diverse and unique skyline and new accessible public spaces that are activated and well used by the community.

Pursuant to standing order additional information provided.

Mr ROB STOKES: In all of the precincts that UrbanGrowth is currently looking at, including Parramatta Road and Central to Eveleigh, housing diversity and housing affordability are going to be critical elements to the success of urban renewal. The objective of our housing diversity strategy for Central to Eveleigh, for example, is to offer diversity in the choice of homes and to provide active and well-designed public spaces that support social and community connections. Key actions to support the objective include creating a mix of well-designed new and traditional apartment types and sizes that encourage a range of social housing and affordable rental housing. That will also be the case in relation to the Parramatta Road transformation where a range of housing types and tenures will be necessary to support the diversity of families who currently live in that corridor and will be attracted to that corridor in the future.

Further, the key actions include establishing a long-term target whereby a significant percentage of new homes are considered more affordable than standard market product for rental or for purchase, including traditional affordable housing rental products managed by community housing providers; and collaborating in capital partnerships that leverage debt and equity innovation with community housing providers, the City of Sydney, not-for-profits, social impact investors and the private sector. The Minister for the Environment talked about collaborating with the bashful Minister for Energy. I would have to say, in that vein, that I am collaborating closely with the demure member for Wakehurst, the Minister for Social Housing, because that partnership will be crucial to ensure that as we provide more homes in better designed communities we provide more homes that are available to a broader range of families.


Link to Hansard

Sign up for updates