Turning stories into action on affordable housing
“People are important, not buildings, and therefore buildings must serve the people.”
This observation from a Uniting Affordable Housing campaign Table Talk participant sums up perfectly the distorted state of the housing system in NSW and the ACT.
Along with other stories we have collected from table talks in recent months, this comment points to the very real human impact at the heart of the problem.
That more value is placed on buildings rather than people, nods to the inadequacy of the system. It is a system that serves the vested interests of developers, investors and governments with little regard for the everyday citizen.
Of course, to say the housing crisis is the result of vested interests alone is oversimplifying the “wicked” issue that is housing affordability. It is, among many things, the result of entrenched misconceptions about who in the community needs and uses public housing, and about what homelessness really means. The lack of affordable housing is also the result of policies that marginalise already vulnerable groups, trapping them a cycle that is difficult to break.
In an attempt to tackle this problem, the Uniting Affordable Housing Campaign was launched as a joint venture between the Social Justice Forum and Sydney Alliance in March 2015. The aim is to empower Uniting Church congregations to advocate on affordable housing.
The first step was to find out what members of the Uniting Church thought about the problem, and envision how we could be involved in the response. We listened to their thoughts, concerns and ideas. And now, after 63 Table Talks, involving more than 400 Uniting Church members from 72 congregations across the Synod, we have a much better picture of how people in the Church feel about housing affordability, and ways in which we can start to improve it.
We have produced a report detailing these findings, and a summary can be viewed here.
What you told us about housing
In sharing stories about how people have been affected by the lack of affordable housing, many patterns have emerged. These include shared concerns about the inadequacy of the public housing system and the sheer lack of affordable homes in both the rental and home buyer markets.
A deep concern for vulnerable groups, including homeless people, women, the elderly and people with disability, was seen as a strong imperative for an appropriate Uniting Church response. While there are many forms this response could take, common ideas included sharing resources like the use of Church property, increasing awareness among the community and lobbying the government.
These ideas have been fundamental in helping us shape the direction of the campaign and informing our asks to government. Some popular ideas included lobbying to develop a State plan for affordable housing, mandated inclusionary zoning and tax reform, amidst the general consensus that increasing supply is critical to addressing the issue.
Action led by you
We now encourage not only participants of table talks, but all Uniting Church members to take a stand and support the call for more affordable housing, based on what you told us.
This week we launched a campaign targeted at local Members of Parliament, to drive momentum for action. We want the State government to develop a State Plan for affordable and social housing and mandate 30% inclusionary zoning in new developments. By contacting local politicians about these solutions, we hope there will be more support in the NSW and ACT parliaments.
We want to see some real action on affordable housing, and we hope you will add your voice by writing to your MP.
Go here to take action and find out more about how these solutions can help to address the wicked problem of unaffordable housing.
Kate Sharkey, Social Justice Forum
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