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Sydney needs more affordable housing

The City of Sydney’s latest biannual street count of people sleeping rough has seen a 26 per-cent increase over the past year prompting further calls from the City of Sydney for the NSW and federal governments to provide more affordable housing. The “key to getting people off the streets is more social and affordable housing”, a City of Sydney spokesperson explained.

However, a spokesperson for the Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, has disputed the figures of the street count, stating that the count is “subject to a range of variables that influence how the count takes place on the night. Parramatta Council conducted a street count on the same night in February 2014, which identified a small reduction in the number of homeless persons”.

The sale of public housing puts further strain on a system that has 3,255 registered applicants for housing in the Sydney and Inner West region with expected waiting times of at best five years, to more than ten years.

The Sustainable Sydney 2030 report outlines the need to increase supply of affordable rental housing by nearly 8,000 by 2030. While new housing projects at Harold Park, Glebe and Zetland will provide 260 dwellings it will still not make up the 300 lost. However, Minister Goward has said that the money generated by the sales will be reinvested in the social housing system.

In the latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey [the Economist Intelligence Unit], Sydney was identified as the fifth most expensive city in the world. The threat of poverty resulting in homelessness is very high for many on low incomes and living on benefits.

The introduction of the City of Sydney and Housing NSW funded “Way2Home” program and “Housing First” approach in 2010 has seen over 160 rough sleepers being assisted into long-term housing and support. With a focus on providing housing first and then support services it has relied on affordable housing projects such as Common Ground at Camperdown and Platform 70 by Bridge Housing Limited. Both these are now fully tenanted.

The results of these programs highlight the need for more affordable housing to protect the vulnerable from the traumatising experience of homelessness.

 

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