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Vinnies calls for affordable housing and energy reforms

The Statement links NSW’s high rate of rental stress (30 per cent of total income spent on housing costs) for low-income households to a decrease of 37 per cent between 2006 and 2010 in the number of affordable properties in the private rental market. Over the last ten years housing costs have risen at twice the rate of inflation.

Social Housing is also not meeting increasing demand. The 2013 Auditor General’s report into Housing NSW estimates that current supply of social housing dwellings only meets 44 per cent of the need and by 2016, the public waiting list will grow by 60 per cent to 86,532.

With more than 90 per cent of negatively geared investment going into existing properties, rather than additional housing stock, prices continue to rise.

To counter these pressures the Statement calls on both state and federal government to introduce these measures to increase the supply of affordable housing.
• Targeted tax concessions for investments that increase the supply of affordable housing;
• Establish an Affordable Housing Fund to create incentives for the construction of new social and affordable housing and attract private sector investment;
• Invest all proceeds from the sale of public housing properties in a dedicated fund for the purpose of creating new supply of affordable and social housing;
• Expedite the transfer of public housing properties to community housing providers via long-term leases;
• Ensure local councils have an affordable housing strategy in place with affordable housing targets;
• Make sure affordable and social housing is located close to services, transport options and employment opportunities.

Over the last ten years the cost of electricity has risen at 4.6 times the rate of Consumer Price Index and gas prices have increased by 17 per cent in the last year alone. Rising costs have become a significant issue for many people that St Vinnies assists.

In addition to rising prices, the energy market in NSW is undergoing a period of change, which will have direct impacts on all energy customers especially low-income households. Some of the key changes include:
• Deregulation of electricity prices in NSW from 1 July 2014 and the adoption of a new National Energy Customer Protection Framework;
• Rising gas prices;
• The state government’s proposed future lease of NSW electricity networks;
• Technological developments – including the prospect of smart meters and new tariff structures.

The critical issues for people the Society assists are energy affordability and energy market complexity. Renters, in either public or private housing, have no control over inefficient fixtures like hot water systems or poor insulation which increase their energy costs so it asks that a permanent fund to support proven energy efficiency programs for low-income households be established.

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW calls on the NSW government to review the NSW energy customer protection framework to simplify market contracts so customers can easily compare and make informed decisions about retail offers; abolish late payment fees and early termination fees, so customers can take up better offers; and strengthen sales and marketing disclosure requirements for energy retailers and third party marketers.

It also recommends reform to the NSW energy concessions scheme by adopting a concession system that is based on the percentage of a household bill rather than a fixed rebate for all and reforming the existing Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme.

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