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Joint statement on housing affordability

There is a growing public discourse on the housing system and in particular the availability of accessible and affordable housing. Clearly the system is failing many individuals and families. We have considerable experience and expertise in understanding the housing markets and call on all levels of government to work to ensure a fairer housing system.

A lack of affordable housing has both economic and social consequences. Without safe and secure housing women and children can’t leave violent situations, recidivism increases, homelessness will not be solved and essential service workers will increasingly be unable to live in the communities they serve.

We reject claims that increasing supply will solve the affordability crisis. In recent years NSW has seen strong increases in supply, but affordability has only worsened. Increasing supply will only make a difference if it is specifically targeted to the lower end of both the home ownership and rental markets.

Changes in employment that have resulted in greater levels of casualisation, contracting and insecurity have had a serious impact on first homeowners’ capacity to sign up to long term mortgages with confidence. Workers under the age of 30 are more likely to be casual than ever before. If the trend continues into the prime working age years it will come at the cost of income security. Almost a quarter of all employees in Australia (23.9 per cent, or 2.2 million people) in 2012 reported as casual employees. The proportion is even higher after adding more than a million contractors and the hundreds of thousands employed through agencies. In addition wages growth is almost flat.

In much of NSW attempting to assist people on low incomes into the private rental market is an almost impossible task. This is clearly evidenced in the Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot. Additionally at the 2011 Census over 86,000 households in NSW were in rental housing stress, paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent. This is unsustainable.

Tax reform is necessary. We would urge all parties to re-examine the findings of the Henry Tax Review. There is clear evidence that negative gearing and the capital gains tax discounts drive speculation, increasing house prices. There is scant evidence that making adjustments to negative gearing will cause rents to increase.

While the NSW government has made a start in establishing an incentive fund for social and affordable housing, more needs to be done. There is an enormous gap between government-sponsored housing and the private rental market. We would support direct investment by the state government to increase affordable housing supply. Private investors need encouragement to provide affordable housing.

The NSW laws need to change to allow increased security of tenure for tenants as well as fairer restrictions on rent increases. We believe that the Boarding House Act, while a step in the right direction, has failed to ensure an adequate standard of accommodation for many people who are marginally housed.

We would support moves by local councils to increase the supply of affordable housing and urge them to work with communities to encourage new development, by highlighting the significant social benefits of secure and affordable housing.

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