Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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The need for affordable housing

Affordable housing refers to “reasonable” housing costs in relation to income. A common benchmark is that affordable housing is housing that does not absorb more than 30 per cent of a very low, low or moderate household’s income. Developed with assistance from state or federal governments, it may include a range of housing types and sizes. Usually managed by not-for-profit community housing providers, affordable housing is most commonly available for rent.

We need more affordable housing in the inner city. How much is needed? What can affordable housing contribute and what should it look like? Tim Williams, the chief executive of the Committee for Sydney, has pointed to London, saying, “they typically go for about 40 per cent, as a mixture of affordable and social housing”.

On Thursday February 4, from 6-7.30pm, a gathering at The Factory Community Centre in Raglan Street, Waterloo, hosted by community action group REDWatch, considered some of the key issues. Questions were addressed by an affordable housing tenant and Dr Louise Crabtree, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. The panel was followed by an open forum.

The SSH will report on the event in our next issue. We’re keen to make space for ongoing reflection on housing as a basic right, and affordable housing as a measure of a just and sustainable society.

It’s a matter of cooperation (with governments, service providers, community groups), towards inclusive and egalitarian neighbourhoods – enriched by contributions from people of different social and economic backgrounds. An inclusive inner city will house a variety of workers and encourage all manner of work (including essential services, cultural and artistic endeavours) for the benefit of all.

UrbanGrowth NSW has said it is looking to create new dwellings in inner-city areas targeted with a combined annual income of between $100,000 and $150,000. Were government agencies to start mandating levels of low- and middle-income housing on new developments close to 20 per cent, it would represent a significant change from current practices. In the City of Sydney, just 2 per cent of new developments are reserved for affordable housing tenants, though the council has a 2030 target of 7.5 per cent (with another 7.5 per cent for social housing). Rental levy programs in Green Square, Ultimo and Pyrmont, as well as partnerships with the Salvation Army and neighbouring councils, offer grounds for hope.

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