The state government has repeatedly claimed that their new planning laws are all about improving housing affordability, and says that anyone who opposes them is making it harder for ‘battlers’ to afford a home. It’s therefore somewhat ironic that the laws, along with a number of other actions by the government, will seriously undermine access to affordable housing in NSW. The planning laws themselves make little mention of affordable housing and through omission will deeply cut into what can be achieved in this regard. It has been common practice for Councils, including City of Sydney, to levy contributions from the proponents of large developments to pay for affordable housing, however the new laws set out a very narrow list of what developer contributions can be spent on – and affordable housing doesn’t make that list.
This will mean that Councils wanting to provide affordable housing will have to do so out of their increasingly constrained budgets. Many will simply be unable to do so, leaving important low income workers to live in inappropriate locations far from their workplaces or endure significant housing stress.
Beyond the laws themselves, the government is acting against public and affordable housing in other ways, which were the subject of a small but passionate protest today outside the massive Barangaroo development. This project will include only around 25 affordable housing units out of 800 dwellings (2.3%) and these will likely be built off-site, ensuring that there are no local poor people to spoil the experience of the VIP guests at the recently approved Packer casino.
The social cleansing is continuing in the adjacent suburb of Millers Point, where the government is part way through a program to sell off an undisclosed number of the 500+ public housing dwellings in the area.
Ultimately, this all shows that the government’s talk of improving housing affordability is simply a cover for forcing through laws that will favour their developer mates but leave communities out in the cold. The laws are being debated in the upper house of parliament this week, after being rushed through the lower house by the Liberal majority, so I would urge anyone who hasn’t yet done so to email upper house MPs, particular the Christian Democrats who haven’t yet declared their position and tell them not to pass these highly flawed laws that will hurt the housing prospects of some of our lowest income earners.