NSW social housing renewal program dwarfed by Victoria,Queensland

A 2016 state government plan to build 23,000 social housing properties in 10 years has so far delivered less than 2 per cent of its target as the number of people on the housing waiting list surpasses 53,000.

Just 391 new social homes have been delivered over five years through the $22 billion Communities Plus program,but construction is under way for about 1200 homes in Macquarie Park,Lidcombe and West Ryde.

The plan to build 23,000 social homes in place of 17,000 marked for demolition meant NSW committed to the largest social housing renewal program in the country,a claim touted by successive housing ministers,including recently anointed Planning and Homes Minister Anthony Roberts.

One of five ageing Kingsgrove properties to be transformed into eight one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units.

One of five ageing Kingsgrove properties to be transformed into eight one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units.LHC

But a recent report into the impacts of COVID-19 on housing argues NSW is falling behind states such as Victoria and Queensland,which have made unprecedented funding pledges for social housing construction in response to the pandemic.

Over the next three years,Victoria and Queensland will account for more than 60 per cent of the nation’s social housing construction,and 80 per cent of the net increase between 2021 and 2024.

Respectively,the states will contribute a net additional 8300 and 4300 social homes,but NSW will add only 402 homes in the same period,according to government data obtained for the report through a freedom of information request.

The November report by ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership said planned construction activity in NSW was largely focused on replacing rundown public housing,offsetting new development gains with demolition losses.

An artist’s impression of the redeveloped housing project in Kingsgrove.

An artist’s impression of the redeveloped housing project in Kingsgrove.LHC

For example,three-bedroom fibro cottages often occupied by a single elderly person are redeveloped into complexes of eight-to-10 units with greater accessibility.

“Compared to other states,NSW has hardly increased its commitment on social housing at all in response to the pandemic,” said report author and associate director of the UNSW City Futures Research Centre Hal Pawson.

“It’s all well and good that the government is renewing some of its rundown public housing estates,but this is not a supply program in any way equivalent to those now under way in Victoria and Queensland,” Professor Pawson said.

Mr Roberts said NSW had increased its social housing estate by 10 per cent in the past decade,adding that the addition of “homes” to his new ministerial title demonstrated the government’s commitment to increase supply.

“Last financial year over 400 new social housing dwellings were delivered,a figure we plan to double this financial year,which will have great social and economic benefits to the community,and is a great outcome for the state,” he said.

Anthony Roberts has returned to his former planning portfolio.

Anthony Roberts has returned to his former planning portfolio.Dominic Lorrimer

In the past five years,the NSW Land and Housing Corporation has also completed 2257 new social housing dwellings under the government’s Future Directions policy and plans to deliver another 3000 properties over the next five years,most of which are property renewals.

Development applications have also been lodged for renewal and redevelopment projects in Telopea,Arncliffe and Villawood,proposing almost 1000 social homes.

Professor Pawson said significant net expansion of social housing was not possible if funding was largely restricted to what could be generated through existing sites,arguing the government was “overselling” an estate renewal program as a social housing supply strategy.

Opposition housing spokeswoman Rose Jackson said Labor did not oppose the necessary upgrading of old housing stock,but said the strategy was not doing enough to boost the net housing stock.

“The housing waitlist is now more than 53,000 people,up from 49,000 before the Delta lockdown began,and the wait time is more than three years,” Ms Jackson said.

“How are they ever going to make any dent in that with 402 net additional properties in the next three years?”

It is estimated up to $20 billion is needed for low-cost housing nationally to make up for a two-decade shortfall being exacerbated by the property boom. The median price in Sydney is beyond $1.3 million while in Melbourne it is approaching $1 million.

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Lucy Cormack is a state political reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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