\ Affordable housing crisis: ideas are needed to keep workers in Sydney – Committee For Sydney

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Affordable housing crisis: ideas are needed to keep workers in Sydney

June 6, 2015

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Kirsty Needham

Million-dollar price tags for unremarkable homes have changed the debate about Sydney housing affordability. Urban planners are now scratching their heads over how to include space for average wage earners – not the poor – in the city.

Much of the redevelopment of huge swathes of government land in the Bays Precinct will be glitzy harbour view apartments.

But the NSW Government’s developer, Urban Growth, also wants “affordable housing” ideas for the inner west waterfront.

A year ago, “affordable housing” meant subsidising below-market rents for low income households.

Sky-rocketing property prices appear to have burst this egalitarian bubble. A Bays Precinct summit was told last month “affordable housing” would cater to the $40,000 to $90,000 income bracket.

By the time the official “call for great ideas” was issued by Urban Growth last week, only “moderate income earners that are so important to support a globally significant CBD economy” got a mention.

Moderate income is defined by the Centre for Affordable Housing as $60,000 to $90,000, or 80 to 120 per cent of the median Sydney income.

In 100 words or less, Sydney, please explain how police, teachers, nurses, and younger professionals can afford to live in this great city.

Committee for Sydney chief executive Tim Williams, who grew up in a public housing estate in Britain, has warned the housing affordability crisis in Sydney has locked 70 per cent of 35-year-olds out of home ownership.

Williams was a key adviser on housing affordability and urban regeneration in London, as Britain grappled with its own crisis a decade ago.

“The housing stress of global cities has reached people on average wages,” he says.

Affordable housing policies are no longer about the very needy, but the ordinary, and will require government intervention to keep vital workers at the heart of the city.

There is a lot of public land in the Bays Precinct, he notes.

“Government has lots of land and could play a role in working with the housing sector and community housing sector. It would mean government moving from ‘We sell the land to the highest bidder’ to keeping the land for the long term.”

The Committee for Sydney will release its affordable housing ideas shortly, in an attempt to prod the Baird Government into action. “The government needs a bolder approach,” he says.

Among the ideas he is considering: shared equity (where the government pays half and the key worker pays half); more high-density public housing; and estate renewal of large public housing precincts in the city to include a greater mix of residents.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme was axed by the Abbott Government amid claims of “rorts” when it was used to market apartments in Broadway’s Central Park (opposite a university) to students.

But the benefit of affordable housing schemes like that one is now highly visible around the city’s university precinct – where student apartments have mushroomed.

Meanwhile, the sell-off of public housing at Millers Point boots out the poor to make way for the rich. Seven of 12 unrenovated terraces sold have fetched over $2 million each.

No teachers moving into that city neighbourhood, then.

Read the article online here.

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