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EDITORIAL: Review Needed for Housing Strategy

EDITORIAL: Review Needed for Housing Strategy

There are few things that can undo the work of promoting Sydney as a vibrant world city to visitors than the sight of homeless people sleeping on the street, under bridges, near shops, on footpaths and in parks. The sight of the homeless is a sure sign that housing and planning authorities need to do better.

The ABS statistical definition of homelessness states that when a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:

           is in a dwelling that is inadequate; or

           has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or

           does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social                     relations.

The reality is there are too many people moving into too small an area, even one seemingly as vast as Sydney (and Melbourne and other capital cities), even as wage growth stalls. People head to the big cities for a wide variety of purposes; lifestyle, work and other reasons. Others are the victim of a troubled lifestyle and even poor mental health.

The housing divide is widening across Sydney, as the difference in rental prices and property types shuts out those in need of low-rent, permanent rooms. Prices go up; they rarely, if ever, come down.

At one end, there are boarding houses that charge rent from between $300 to $800. Then there are rent-controlled developments built by non-profit community housing providers. At the bottom are traditional boarding houses, mostly managed privately by owners or real estate agents, charging less than $300 per week for a barely furnished room and communal facilities. Some do not have kitchens.

An evaluation of the Boarding House Act 2012 by the Australian Catholic University and Newtown Neighbourhood Centre last year, found that the number of assisted boarding houses fell from 22 in 2014 to 18 in 2017. The total number of registered boarding houses increased from 776 in 2014 to 1002 in October 2017.

It could be argued that local councils make matters worse by complicating the DA approval process for new boarding houses, which prompts applicants to appeal to the Planning and Environment Commission.

For example, where there are one or two old public homes existing between private houses, The Department of Housing is blocking the opportunity to build homes and/or boarding homes for the community and low-income earners who may be classified as homeless. In these circumstances, owners of the private houses should be entitled to have the opportunity to argue that their property might be suitable for development. If these public homes are  occupied by single or couple residents , the Department of Housing should be offering residents to move to newer homes allowing to provide more houses. We urge the goverment to launch full review of the Public housing strategy.                                                           

Editor in Chief                       



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