Responding to the need for affordable housing

Responding to the need for affordable housing

The Social Justice Forum is working on an initiative to promote awareness and action on affordable housing within the Synod.

Secure, affordable housing is a basic human need and essential for the wellbeing of families and communities. Secure housing provides the stable base people need to nurture families, succeed in education and find employment.

Many of us are acutely aware that housing in NSW and the ACT is increasingly unaffordable and insecure.

  • Parents are concerned their children will never be able to afford their own home
  • Those who rent face limited choice and rents that claim a large proportion of their incomes, leaving too little for other essentials
  • Thousands are homeless, living in precarious accommodation or have no home at all

The situation is bleakest for the most vulnerable. One woman, a client of Uniting Care NSW.ACT, found herself homeless and her daughter removed from her care because of domestic violence. With support of staff her daughter was restored to her. But they were living with another family and that family needed to move.  This mum said “ my dream would be to have a private house, somewhere where we could settle for a few years, not just for three or six months. A decent house, not the best house, but suitable for me and my child, close to my supports, not a junkie street where it is not safe to raise a child.”

What a contrast there is between this single mother’s plight and the picture of human flourishing envisaged by the prophets.

In one passage, those who are exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon are told to ‘Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat what they produce’ (Jeremiah 29:5). This building of houses was part of making connections and learning to belong in a new place. But notice it assumes resources, stability and sufficient time. Similarly the prophet Micah has a vision of ‘the days to come’ in which people will ‘sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid’ (Micah 4:4). While houses are not mentioned, this passage paints a picture of domestic security, of people who have enough to live on and are not overwhelmed with fears for their future.

The Social Justice Forum is working with UnitingCare NSW.ACT and the Sydney Alliance to conduct 130 ‘table talks’ on the issue of affordable housing within the Synod of NSW and the ACT.

Table talks are a way of having a focussed discussion that leads to action. The aim of the table talks, which will take place in early 2015, are to:

  • Hear the main concerns we have as a church about affordable housing
  • Encourage theological reflection and action on housing as part of the church’s mission
  • Identify the most important and effective actions we as a church can take to increase the provision of affordable housing. Actions may include advocacy (including support for the Sydney Alliance state election agenda on housing), service development or direct provision of accommodation. Local, regional or synod wide actions may be identified.

There is no simple solution to the affordable housing crisis, however there are actions that we can take to help address this complex issue.

The task of recruiting hosts for table talks has commenced.  Some of those who have completed Sydney Alliance two day training will be approached about this in the coming weeks and invited to a launch in February 11 next year. However, the involvement of people beyond Sydney is vital.

If you are interested in having or hosting a table talk within your congregation or presbytery or want to find out more  please contact Jon O’Brien, Social Justice Advocacy Coordinator on Phone:  (02) 9407 3225 or Email: socialjustice@unitingcarenswact.org.au

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