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Affordable Housing Assembly sends strong message to Minister

The Social Justice Forum (a group of leaders from the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT and its community services) has played an active part in a campaign with partners in the Sydney Alliance to reverse Sydney’s disastrous slide into unaffordability. The campaign calls for at least 15 per cent of units in new developments on private land to be set aside for low-moderate income rental, and at least 30 per cent on government-owned land.

The recent Sydney Alliance submission to the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) reads in part:

“Early childhood educators, nurses, midwives, hospitality and retail workers, aged care workers and many others on low to moderate incomes increasingly struggle to find affordable accommodation close to work. Commutes are longer and more expensive – bringing added stress, fatigue, less time with children, and fewer family supports.

“The Commission’s proposed mandatory requirement of a 5-10 per cent affordable inclusion goes some way towards alleviating this problem, however the target is too low to be meaningful in any practical sense.

“Additionally, an inclusion rate only on the uplift has the danger of resulting in a very small number of affordable homes being built. To have a long-term and significant effect on the housing crisis in this city, the GSC Plans need to lift the target to at least 15 per cent of all new developments on private land, and at least 30 per cent on government land.

“The inclusionary targets should not only be applied to the ‘uplift’ or ‘new floor space’ of a development. The people of Sydney deserve and have a right to expect that inclusionary targets be applied to the whole development.

“These targets are widely accepted as the standard by the sector in NSW and are in line with, if not below, the standard around the world. As the Commission has made clear, these targets need to be met as part of a broader web of planning goals that work together to produce a ‘liveable city’.

“For that reason, we ask that greater consideration be given to how to manage the consequences of gentrification that come with major infrastructure investments like those the GSC Plans outline. Higher targets of affordable housing across the whole city that are carefully connected to world standard public transport will go a long way to ensuring everyone enjoys the benefits that development can bring.

“While we acknowledge that inclusionary zoning is only one piece of the puzzle needed to solve the housing crisis in our city, it is still our view that it is a significant piece of that puzzle. But it must be done well.

“Therefore, it is our coalition’s firm conviction that unless the GSC Plans include the higher target of 15-30 per cent on entire developments and that these targets are paired with a more comprehensive public transport system, the GSC’s vision of Sydney as a ’30-minute, world class and liveable city’ will remain out of reach.”

Endorsing these targets at the rally were more than 100 leaders of various faiths, housing, welfare, charity, trade union, employer, educational and other bodies. Leaders of the Uniting Church NSW-ACT Synod, its care and social justice agency Uniting, and the Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly were among those pledging continued support. Uniting Church congregations from all over Sydney were represented.

Guest speakers included Mr Roberts, Kathryn Greiner AO of the NSW Council for the Ageing and Prof. Bill Randolph from the UNSW’s City Futures.

Mr Roberts, though unable to give firm commitments pending consideration of a GSC review, said he was “humbled” and “impressed” by the depth and breadth of the community support for stronger targets. He agreed to a further meeting with community leaders, with the GSC also invited.

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