The role of public housing in NSW and the many problems it faces are set to come under the microscope this year after Greens MP Jan Barham succeeded in establishing a parliamentary inquiry into this important but undervalued resource. The inquiry has an appropriately wide range of terms of reference, covering matters such as housing demand, maintenance standards and the social value of providing public and affordable housing and it’s been pleasing to see a large number of people engaging with the inquiry, which is taking public submissions until the 28th of February.
Last week REDWatch, a community group that I am proud to have a longstanding involvement with, organised a roundtable to gather the views of the community and inform their input into the inquiry. The meeting attracted a good turn out of people from all sides of the alternative housing sector including residents, community workers and advocates, and an impressive range of ideas were put forward by the group.
People spoke of their experiences in public and affordable housing, of the problems they’ve encountered (which I spend a lot of time discussing on this website) but also of the amazing sense of community they’ve found there, something which is too often forgotten amongst discussion of the negative issues. It was also fascinating to hear people’s insights on the evolution of public housing over the years and their reflections on how the sector works in various other countries, issues that I’ll be looking into further between now and when I put my submission in.
Public and affordable housing is an incredibly valuable resource that provides benefits not just to the low income earners who live in it but also to the whole of society. It helps to keep house prices down on the private market, provides homes for people who work in important but low paid jobs that we all value and provides a range of other social and economic advantages. It’s for this reason that I’m very grateful the sector is finally getting the attention it deserves from parliamentarians and I hope that this inquiry will open up some eyes in the government and prompt some much needed reform in the area.
I would urge anyone concerned about public and affordable housing in NSW to check out the inquiry’s terms of reference and make a submission. You needn’t be an expert in the field to make a submission, the inquiry will recognise the value of personal experiences, and submissions needn’t be long or detailed. What matters is that the government is given an indication of how important alternative housing is and gets some ideas about what needs to be done to improve it.