This month the City has granted $250 000 to the Salvation Army to assist with the development of affordable housing at 5-19 Mary Street, Surry Hills. The proposed development will include 48 crisis accommodation units and 118 affordable housing units available for men, women and children with parents. The facility will also feature homelessness support services to provide access to those seeking accommodation.
The proposed service appears to be a similar set up to the Common Ground project in Camperdown. Common Ground has been highly successful in transitioning people out of homelessness. In addition to the provision of affordable housing units, where tenants play 25-30% of their income in rent, there is also other health and social support services available.
Currently the existing Mary Street building holds 96 crisis accommodation dormitories for men. The City’s contribution is intended to assist with the design and development application process. The Salvation Army are planning to spend $55 million on construction and operation costs. The City’s contribution will come from the funds quarantined from the sale of land at Harold Park to City West for affordable housing. Earlier this year I requested tighter administration around the use of these funds so that the money received by the City was not absorbed into general revenue. The City now has a dedicated affordable housing fund.
The local government area desperately needs additional affordable housing and I’m very supportive of what this project will provide. I am, however, concerned that City money is going to a large, well resourced, religious charity rather than a local independent provider. Government assistance is so critical to smaller independent organisations. The City’s grant of $ 250 000 is of minor significance to an organisation that can raise $55 million for the project. I hope in future that we will see more of the City’s Affordable Housing Reserve funds going to local independent projects.
I’m really looking forward to seeing this project completed. I will be seeking further details about the transitional arrangements for the current facility.