The Uniting Church and our agency Uniting are in the frontline of a call for the Berejiklian government to shift the focus of housing development away from quantity and towards affordability for lower income-earners.
Our campaign with our partners in the Sydney Alliance is using community forums to push for stronger NSW government policies, and for local councils to strengthen their affordability policies. In particular, we’re pushing for the inclusion in the government’s State Environmental Planning Policy No 70 (SEPP70) legislation.
SEPP70 at present only covers a handful of councils. The Sydney Alliance is urging that it be implemented across Greater Sydney, to give effect to at least the modest affordability targets approved under the government’s “Three Cities” plan.
The government is reported as having an attack of “cold feet” about new housing initiatives – deferring, or referring to councils, developments it had previously described as “critical” for housing affordability. Media reports say the Premier is concerned to slow housing development, fearing voter backlash against overdevelopment in the run-up to state elections in March.
Addressing Sydney’s unaffordability crisis should not be put on the back-burner. Playing a leading role in the campaign the Social Justice Forum is urging the government to consider that modest developments may be more politically palatable if they improve the liveability and inclusiveness of communities.
Government advisers and experts have warned that Sydney needs to build at least 8,000-12,000 new affordable homes a year to even stop the crisis going backwards.
Only 1% of rentals in major cities are affordable by people on the minimum wage, and virtually none by people on Newstart. 75% of low-income families are under “housing stress”, unable to pay rents while meeting other essential costs. 28,000 in NSW are homeless – again, severely impacted by market unaffordability.
We’re advocating strongly with state and local governments, and co-hosting community forums on issues of housing affordability and security for people on lower incomes.
The next of these will be held on the evening of 24 September at the Ryde-Eastwood Leagues Club. State and local politicians will face questions from experts and from constituents struggling to find and keep affordable homes among Sydney’s soaring rents and falling minimum incomes. Strong turnout from our church is essential: more info and registration here.
The Ryde forum will be co-hosted by Vinnies, Uniting and the Sydney Alliance. Further forums are being held soon in Parramatta, Five Dock, Hornsby, Northern Beaches and more.
Uniting is also supporting federal reforms through the national “Everybody’s Home” campaign, aimed at reducing homelessness and a better deal for renters.
Stafford Sanders is a Campaign Coordinator for Uniting’s Social Justice Forum