NSW public housing to benefit from privatisation

In order to help relieve Sydney’s housing affordability crisis, the Baird government is planning to privatise New South Wale’s public housing through a revitalisation and revamp of the current social housing, costing $22 billion.

The public housing waiting list has now reached up to 60,000 households, caused by half of public housing tenants staying on for 10 years or longer as well as a low number of vacancies available. The increasingly unaffordable private rental market for people on low incomes also has an effect and low income earners find it almost impossible to make the switch from social housing to private housing. The rental prices are just too high to allow them to compete with other private tenants who are able to offer more.

To address this critical issue, tens of thousands of new private dwellings are to be constructed which will help put downward pressure on rents. In order for this to occur, ageing housing estates will need to be knocked down and in their place new communities will be built by private property developers. Currently, private tenants and home owners outnumber social housing tenants by a 70:30 ratio.

Community housing organisations will receive a third of the government housing stock and they will be expected to provide support services to help social housing tenants rebuild their lives for the better.

To help house families in crisis, as well as women escaping domestic violence, the Baird government will rely more heavily on private rental subsidies. These rental subsidies will help to house many more families and help to reduce the 60,000 families on the social housing waiting list.

The NSW government plans to break the poverty cycle which has seen families for generations rely on government-provided housing. This new plan will therefore help families become more independent and be able to stand on their own two feet. However, this won’t happen overnight and a 10-year plan to address this situation will be put forward by Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard.

According to the plan the number of private rental subsidies will increase by 60 per cent, to 37,000 by 2025. It is also expected that there would be 23,500 new and replacement social and affordable housing dwellings constructed by the private sector. These dwelling will range from townhouses to high rises to suit a variety of demographics.

Property developers will also have a part to play and will be expected to form joint ventures with community housing groups to bid for the redevelopment projects.

"We have billions of dollars worth of land with ageing public housing that no longer does the job we expect for those community members," said Mr Hazzard.

"This is a really innovative way of saying we can use that old, run down, tired stock on taxpayers land to go to the private sector and say build us more, far more social housing and mix the private housing and give us better social outcomes."

The plan will prioritise families who have experienced loss of income through a sudden event such as illness or retrenchment and young people. These people will go onto a new three-year private rental subsidy. Recipients will also be required to undergo training or support programs to help them get out of social housing altogether.

According to the plan, social housing tenants fall into two groups: the first group includes those who need long term support such as the mentally ill, disabled, elderly and the frail. The second group will include those who can move out of the system through support such as TAFE training.

Children will also be targeted and $2 million will be spent to help build childcare centres to help improve the educational outcomes of children who live in social housing. A program of health worker visits for mothers and babies will also be introduced.

However in spite of a revamp of the social housing, moving people into jobs may prove difficult. There might not always be jobs out there and some areas might not have any jobs suited. It will be up to the community housing providers to continue to provide vulnerable tenants with the services that they require. Taking a long-term approach is also important, with 20-year contracts provided.

One way to reduce the number of evictions for unpaid rent for social housing tenants in NSW is to automatically deduct rent from Centrelink payments. For new social housing leases beginning midway through 2016, rental bonds will be imposed. However this will be capped at $1,400 and bonds are able to be paid over two years.

The social housing system was first introduced in the 1940s to cater for working families on low incomes. This Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW plan is set to provide more housing for those in need and to help reduce homelessness. It will also create a better social housing experience, with housing to feel more like private housing, whilst make better use of existing ones.

The focus is therefore to build integrated communities which are close to transport, education and support services.
Published on 27th of January 2016 by Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich

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