In a first for the organisation, Housing Trust released a detailed report card rating the performances of our four local councils on their commitment to Affordable Rental Housing as they near the end of their current term.
Overall, the review of the performance reflects disappointing results against five key criteria:
- A policy or plan in place to address Affordable Rental Housing;
- Targets that reflect the need for Affordable Rental Housing;
- Commitment to provide land for Affordable Rental Housing;
- Waiving Development Application fees for Affordable Rental Housing projects; and
- Requiring developers to contribute to Affordable Rental Housing.
While Shoalhaven Council achieved a pass mark by meeting three of the five criteria Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Councils have all failed to set policy, strategy, targets or provide material support to increase the supply of Affordable Rental housing in their communities.
The ratings report follows the launch of Housing Trust’s Homes4LocalHeroes campaign which seeks to increase awareness of the Affordable Rental housing crisis in the region and to make it a policy priority for candidates standing for election and for voters when they go to the polls on Saturday 4 December.
Housing Trust CEO, Michele Adair said every level of government had a part to play, in partnership with the development industry, land owners and the community housing sector. “For too long our local councils have passed the buck, saying there’s little they can do. Frankly, that’s not true. It’s a cop out.”
Ranked on five key criteria, Shoalhaven Council’s end of term report card, while not ‘gold standard’ was head and shoulders above its neighbouring councils to the north, and it was marked 3/5 overall earning it a B grade.
‘To its credit, in 2017, Council released the Shoalhaven Affordable Housing Strategy which reflects the current demand and future need for Affordable Rental housing in the LGA. Its a robust strategy and outlines a range of mechanisms to deliver more Affordable Rental housing. It also includes plans to mandate contributions from developers.
‘Just this month, Shoalhaven’s Mayor reconvened a local task force to address new affordable housing concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.’
Shoalhaven 2040 identifies the need for more than 14,600 new homes in the next 20 years to provide for an additional 23,000 residents.
‘Importantly, Shoalhaven 2040 identifies the need for more homes to meet the needs of people on very low to moderate incomes. Priced so people can afford other basic living costs.’
In contrast, Wollongong City Council was given a D and an overall rating of 1/5 for its efforts over the past four years.
‘Disappointingly, the outgoing Council has dropped the ball by failing to finalise a new Housing Strategy which has been over five years in the making,’ Ms Adair said.
‘The last Wollongong Council Housing Strategy was delivered way back in 2006 – that’s 15 years ago. Our world has changed so dramatically since then and the Council has failed to keep pace with that change,’ Ms Adair said. ‘Wollongong now finds itself years behind on affordability and facing a big challenge playing catch up in the years ahead.
‘You’d have to question the Council’s commitment to affordability given its failure to step up and deliver. The years have rolled by, more people than ever are facing housing stress, and we still have no up-to-date strategy, targets or plan.
‘In 2019 Council awarded Housing Trust $4.34m in Federal funding through a competitive tender to help build 17 Affordable Rental homes. A balance of $6.5m has remained unallocated for the entire term of this council’.
Housing Trust has accused Kiama Council of turning its back on those in desperate need of Affordable Rental housing, describing it as the biggest disappointment of the four councils and giving it an F on its report card and a score of 0/5.
“The 2020 Kiama Local Strategic Planning Statement describes Kiama as ‘one of the least affordable places to live’ but gives no priority to the provision of new Affordable Rental homes in the future. In fact, quite the opposite.
“Frankly, the attitude of the Council is shameful and pushes responsibility for Affordable Rental housing to neighbouring councils. It says ‘given the moderate level of growth that the Council will be advocating…pursuing an affordable housing contribution scheme in Kiama is not considered viable.’ It goes on ‘while key workers may not be able to afford to enter the Kiama housing market, affordable housing alternatives are available within a relatively short travelling distance of Kiama which reduces the social impact of affordability in Kiama.’
“This can only be read one way. If you can’t afford the millions to buy into Kiama, you don’t matter. The ‘key workers’ described in the Council’s Planning Statement are the same local heroes who’ve helped get us through the pandemic. They are nurses, police, aged and child care workers, baristas and tradies. For them, Kiama is a ‘no-go zone’ as a place to live. We need Homes4LocalHeroes and they deserve better.”
Housing Trust has rated Shellharbour Council a D and only marginally ahead of Kiama with a score of 1/5 for its efforts on housing affordability.
The Council’s Local Strategic Planning Statement provides a blueprint for growth over the next 20 years as Shellharbour increases its population by about 20,000, requiring more than 10,000 new homes.
In its recent submission to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry Shellharbour Council conceded there was a wait time of at least 10 years for social housing and ‘without access to social and affordable housing, some people face homelessness or struggle to meet utility, food and other basic living costs.’
The Council said with more than 35% of residents experiencing rental stress at the last Census; ‘that means there has to be housing that is affordable for people to buy, rental accommodation that is affordable and also an adequate supply of social housing.’
“Yet again we see a Council publically and accurately acknowledging this significant problem, yet its failure to take any concrete action reflects poorly on every elected member of the Council,” Ms Adair said.
The Homes4Local Heroes campaign is targeting the four LGAs ahead of upcoming elections and asking each candidate to commit to strategies to deliver one in every five new homes as Affordable Rental.
Briefings are being organised for all candidates standing for election in Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven and there will be a virtual Housing Forum for voters interested in learning more about the growing affordability challenges in the region.
Housing Trust will also ask every candidate to complete a survey ahead of the election to detail their commitment to this issue and it will share the results one week out from the polls.
Join us for our free online webinar https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/homes-4-local-heroes-affordable-rental-forum-tickets-206920925057