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Will LAHC’s redevelopment profit pay for Aboriginal affordable housing?

The NSW government’s Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) has a policy of trying to deliver 30 per cent social housing paid for by the 70 per cent private housing in its redevelopments.

LAHC has stuck with its 30:70 formula in the inner city against community and Council pressure to increase the quantity of social and affordable housing in these developments. In Waterloo South, both Council and the Independent Advisory Group undertook work showing that more housing can be delivered. The Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE) is checking this feasibility for Waterloo South.

On the Elizabeth Street PCYC site, Council commissioned a Feasibility Analysis by AEC Group to support its view that the site could provide more social and affordable housing. AEC found that at normal developer margins of 20 per cent the site could deliver 7.5 per cent additional affordable housing than 30:70 proposed. During the Central Sydney Planning Committee (CSPC) discussion, the NSW Government Architect argued that because developer risk is lower on a government-owned site the original 10 per cent affordable housing Council and CSPC proposed should be possible.

If DPIE sticks with 30 per cent combined social and affordable housing because that is government policy, Redfern will not get all the housing that the site can deliver and LAHC will make a profit it can use elsewhere. As delivery costs are cheaper in western Sydney it is likely to see additional housing delivered there rather than in the inner city.

One place this LAHC profit could be allocated in Redfern and Waterloo is for Aboriginal affordable housing to keep a diverse and viable Aboriginal community in the inner city. The feasibility figures show that 10 per cent affordable housing requested by the Aboriginal community could be self-funded by LAHC, even though in the past groups like REDWatch have argued it should be funded by Treasury.

In considering LAHC’s Redfern redevelopment, Council initially applied its policy that 10 per cent of the affordable housing be for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, but this only delivers 2-3 homes. In response to this problem, Council changed its recommendation to DPIE and LAHC so that 10 per cent of the entire redevelopment should be Aboriginal housing.

Council is also taking a non-planning approach to the problem. A note on Housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for the Elizabeth Street LAHC Discussion at the November 15 Council, revealed that Council funds a dedicated Aboriginal Affordable Housing Engagement Coordinator to work with Community housing providers to increase the number of Aboriginal tenants. As a result, 43 per cent of the 160 social and affordable housing units in the 11 Gibbons Street development were allocated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households.

It is time for the NSW government to do its bit.

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Geoff Turnbull is the Co-Spokesperson for REDWatch.

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