Solving Sydney's Housing Crisis

Tomorrow the City is hosting two important events to tackle the housing crisis in Sydney. The problem has been growing for some years, but it's reached a point where it can no longer be ignored and it stretches across the whole metro region.

At the last Council meeting of 2014, I proposed to call together key stakeholders for a Housing Diversity Forum followed by a City Talk to present the outcomes of the Forum. These two initiatives will inform a City of Sydney Housing Affordability Discussion Paper and Policy.

Housing affects everyone, so it is an issue for us all. Many young people can no longer afford to buy into the housing market. There are also many people suffering housing stress - including about 84 per cent of lower income earners in our local government area.

Our City will not be sustainable unless people in our essential low-paid service industries - the teachers, nurses, fireys, police and ambulance workers who keep Sydney working - can afford to live here, rather than being condemned to lengthy congested commutes from far-flung cheaper houses on Sydney's fringes.

The problem is not only with the private market demanding high prices and rent. There is also a desperate shortage of non-market alternatives - social and affordable housing. The provision of affordable housing is way behind demand, and that sector is facing very real challenges to increasing supply. Already, less than one per cent of total housing supply in our local government area is classed as affordable housing.

The City has been using all the levers under our control in an effort to deal with this urgent problem. Most importantly, as a planning authority, we've worked to approve new housing of a high standard, with commitment to needed public infrastructure and services — including open space, child care and cultural facilities.

In the five years to June 2014, we oversaw completion of approximately 8,000 dwellings and there are currently a further 17,600 dwellings approved but not yet completed in the city.

Our affordable housing levy has so far delivered 665 units in Ultimo-Pyrmont and 104 in Green Square, where the target is 479 over 20 years. We've unsuccessfully sought State Government approval to extend the levy to cover the entire City.

And we have reviewed our property portfolio, identifying sites for affordable rental housing. Several sites have been transferred to affordable housing providers, including part of the former South Sydney Hospital site where 100 rental units are being constructed. We waived infrastructure contributions, estimated at $2 million, to make the site viable.

While social housing is the responsibility of the NSW Government, the City is the only council in NSW with a dedicated Public Housing Liaison Officer, who is in contact with up to 2,500 public housing residents each year.

For our future social and economic prosperity, we can no longer afford to shift the chronic housing issues into the too-hard basket.

Tickets for the CityTalk have sold out, but you can join the conversation on Twitter via the hashtag #sydcitytalk or by following @cityofsydney. A vodcast will be available on Friday.

The evening features a discussion panel with the following members:

MC: Steve Cannane - Journalist and current affairs reporter, ABC




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