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Mayor backs affordable housing levy

Marrickville Mayor Jo Haylen after addressing the Housing Inquiry

Like so many inner city suburbs, Marrickville’s gentrification and rising real estate prices are resulting in a crisis of affordable housing.

Marrickville Mayor Jo Haylen last week addressed a NSW parliamentary inquiry on the issue and recommended a housing levy for the local area.

Cr Haylen said Marrickville suffers from one of the highest levels of homelessness in Sydney and fears the cultural diversity of the area is under threat.

“Our traditional diversity is diminishing and escalating housing prices are putting intolerable pressure on the disadvantaged and lower-income members of our community,” she said. The mayor’s proposed solution is a compulsory affordable housing levy on property developers.

The three per cent levy would apply to dwellings of more than $200,000 and be similar to existing schemes such as the successful City of Sydney and Willoughby models.

“In some models the money goes into a fund and when there’s enough, housing is constructed. This housing is usually leased or divested to registered community housing providers,” Cr Haylen said.

“Council has officially planned for 4000 dwellings to 2031, so assuming a construction value of $400,000 per dwelling construction cost, a three per cent levy would equate to $48 million or 120 dwellings.”

South Marrickville resident John Atkins said the major issue is a lack of affordable rental housing, especially for singles.

“Another [issue] is the loss of key workers. Key workers are people who are employed in community services like teachers, police officers, nurses,” he said.

“As the houses become increasingly unaffordable they’re forced out. So there’s a loss of those people and it’s very difficult to find employees to provide those essential services.”

A member of the local advisory Affordable Housing Committee, Mr Atkins said the biggest opportunity council has to contribute to affordable housing is to utilise the old Marrickville hospital development.

“We’ve actually got council to agree to a minimum of four per cent affordable housing within that development.”

A successful example of an affordable housing scheme funded by developers is the developer contributions scheme of City West Housing.

Janelle Goulding, City West’s CEO, said her organisation has been delivering affordable rental housing in the Pyrmont/Ultimo area since 1998.

“Many of our residents fall into very low, low and moderate income brackets and would most likely not be able to afford to live in areas close to their employment,” she said.

“The maximum rent payable by our tenants is 30 per cent of the gross household income.”