Property Industry Foundation Reception

(6pm, Lord Mayor's Reception Room, Sydney Town Hall)

Thank you.

Welcome everyone to tonight's reception. It is wonderful to see so many people here in support of such an important cause.

The Property Industry Foundation plays an invaluable role in bringing the construction and building industry together with local government and community organisations to assist young people at risk, particularly those who are homeless.

It's very timely that we come together because the affordability of housing is at crisis point in Sydney.

The astronomical growth in housing prices is now a staple of Sydney conversation.

It is especially acute in inner-Sydney where only 1% of housing is classified as 'affordable' but the problem stretches across metropolitan Sydney.

Many young people can no longer afford to buy housing or find an affordable rental property.

84 per cent of lower income earners in our Local Government Area are suffering housing stress. Many of these are our key workers - the teachers, nurses, ambulance drivers and others - who keep the City functioning.

As affordability and housing stress worsens, the waiting list for social housing grows.

In NSW there are approximately 60,000 people on the social housing waiting list, with 5000 priority approved. The average wait time on the list is ten years, or two for those who are priority - and being homeless does not qualify a person for priority.

In the City of Sydney the number of people who are sleeping rough is increasing. There were 365 people counted in our February street count, up 5.5% on the February 2014 count, and homeless hostels were at 92% capacity on the night.

The City continues to actively support homeless people.

We have committed $4.2 million over the next three years to help fund outreach services, support for young people, and Connect 100, which will provide housing for people experiencing homelessness in the inner city.

We are the only Council in NSW with its own homelessness unit, working to connect rough sleepers with appropriate support - and I applaud the work of the Property Industry Foundation to reach out to other councils across Sydney to provide homelessness services.

Our Homelessness Unit coordinates local area based approaches, working with police, specialist services and FACS in hotspot areas such as Woolloomooloo, Wentworth Park and Belmore Park. Since our February street count, 26 people sleeping rough in the City of Sydney have been offered housing through this partnership approach.

But housing is of course primarily a Federal and State Government responsibility, and we urgently need action and collaboration to improve housing affordability and reduce homelessness.

Homelessness services are currently going through major changes under the NSW Government's Going Home Stay Home reforms.

Incredibly, the Federal Government is cutting funding for homelessness services.

The Haymarket Foundation in Darlinghurst, the only provider of comprehensive medical and nursing care for homeless and disadvantaged men and women in inner-Sydney, has lost $900,000 in funding - and is currently seeking transitional and on-going funding to stay afloat.

Following a Housing Diversity Summit in March, the City released its Housing Issues Paper for public feedback.

The paper calls on all levels of government to work with financiers, developers and community housing providers to offer a larger mix of accommodation in the inner city, including affordable rental housing, social housing and long term supported housing for the homeless. We value your input, so please have a look at the Paper and have your say.

We want to work with the NSW Government to build on successful innovations like the 'Common Ground' development in Camperdown.

Common Ground Sydney, which opened in Camperdown in 2011, was based on the successful New York model. The project provides homes for 52 formerly homeless people and 52 people on low-to-moderate incomes with on-site services. The City amended its planning controls for the project to proceed, and the developers and architects provided services at cost.

It would be fantastic if the industry, the City and the NSW Government could work together again to build another Common Ground. That's the challenge I set you tonight. I will be talking to the Minister and you further to see if we can make it happen.

Once again I would like to thank you all for coming this evening. The work that the Property Industry Foundation does in assisting young people who are homeless is to be applauded and your support is invaluable.