Affordable rental targets adopted citywide
On March 18, Premier Gladys Berejiklian put her personal stamp on a target of low-income-affordable rental units as the planning standard across our city, in the Greater Sydney Commission’s “A Metropolis in Three Cities” plan.
The policy was a big win for community action, especially for a three-year campaign by the Uniting Church and its partners in the Sydney Alliance.
It’s the first time a mandatory proportion of affordable units has been included in cross-Sydney planning. It will lead to hundreds of homes being built in coming years and hopefully many thousands in future.
The target of 5-10% of floor space in the post-rezoning “uplift” will fall well short of creating the GSC’s mooted comprehensive solution of 8000 affordable rental homes per year. The GSC solution is essential to address the affordability crisis that puts Sydney second-last in the world for affordable accommodation. The policy announced by the government also leaves serious loopholes that will diminish its enforceability.
Nevertheless it was a major win for ‘people power’, creating the potential for further action at state and local government levels to increase and strengthen the targets.
The policy was passed despite the initial opposition of the NSW Treasurer, Treasury officials, Planning Minister and the original opposition of the Premier herself. They were brought around by sustained community voice and action, coordinated by the Sydney Alliance with leading input from Uniting’s Social Justice Forum.
The policy was announced a day after the Alliance had sent hundreds of volunteers onto the streets of the marginal Western Sydney electorate of Penrith, surveying and engaging with community opinion. Many of the volunteers were from Uniting Church congregations across Greater Sydney and up to the Blue Mountains. The results showed overwhelming support for more to be done to improve affordable and secure rental options. Read the Sydney Alliance media release.
According to GSC officials, affordable rental targets remained a top priority through its long consultation process because of sustained Alliance intervention.
The campaign has also achieved NSW Opposition support for its rental affordability and security targets; and has prompted several local councils to adopt or strengthen their policies.
For the Alliance partners including Synod and Uniting, more work remains to be done. This includes the need to increase and strengthen affordability targets over time by further advocacy at state and local levels, and to win government support for an end to “no grounds” evictions.
On May 26 a follow-up community forum on affordable housing will be held at Penrith Uniting Church, while Alliance partners including Uniting Social Justice Forum will continue their advocacy work at state and local government levels.
Most of all, the experience has been one of empowerment for Sydney’s diverse communities, who have come together as never before to ensure more people would have a safe and secure place to call home.
Image: More than a hundred volunteers from the Sydney Alliance and its partners at the “Penrith speaks” affordable housing survey action on March 17.
Stafford Sanders, Uniting Social Justice Forum.