By ALLISON HORE
Estimates say there could be around 6,000 new affordable homes ready to be built in NSW if a Federal stimulus package for affordable housing is included in the October 6 budget.
According to a survey from the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA), not for profit housing providers in NSW have shovel ready projects that would deliver 5,838 new homes and an estimated 3,509 new jobs. These shovel-ready projects include both social and affordable rental housing and homes for sale.
CHIA CEO Wendy Hayhurst says that the results of the survey show not for profit housing groups are ready and willing to partner with Federal and NSW governments to provide housing for vulnerable people struggling to afford rent in the wake of the pandemic.
“Many of the projects are in regional NSW, where local communities desperately need construction related jobs to keep their local economies going as a result of the pandemic and economic slowdown,” Ms. Hayhurst said.
Almost 80% of the ready-projects in NSW could begin construction by March 2021 if they are supported by Federal Government investment. This means that ground could be broken on the construction of almost 5000 affordable homes in just six months. In the Sydney region alone, there are over 4200 affordable homes ready for construction.
Everybody’s Home campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin said that investment in not for profit community housing would not just be good social policy, but also good economic policy.
“Socially we are on the precipice of unprecedented levels of housing stress and homelessness in Australia – and renters are at the very frontline of that crisis in NSW,” Ms. Colvin said.
The Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP), which was developed by a coalition of housing advocacy groups, calls for a government investment of $7.2 billion to build new homes or acquire existing homes, and $500 million for renovation costs.
“If governments invested in the full four-year SHARP program to build 30,000 social housing homes, up to 18,000 full-time equivalent jobs would be supported each year nationally – 10,275 of them in NSW,” explains Ms. Hayhurst.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing more Australians out of work and onto the JobSeeker program, affordable housing will become more important than ever. Ms. Colvin said rental affordability has already halved for families surviving on a minimum wage and those who have lost jobs because of pandemic.
“When mortgage holidays and rental moratoriums are lifted and government welfare payments “tapered”, the true face of rental stress and homelessness will be revealed. A housing stimulus package will help keep more Australians housed and construction workers employed,” she said.
Researchers from UNSW say that the relapse of eviction moratorium and decrease in job seeker rates “will likely trigger huge immediate challenges in managing the housing and homelessness fallout”.
The Sydney Business Chamber agrees that more diversity of housing will be crucial in ensuring housing affordability and will provide economic recovery through an uplift in construction rates.
“Construction of a more diverse range of new housing through a pathway for investment in models including Build-to-Rent developments, student housing and co-living, is particularly important as we emerge from the Covid crisis,” said Katherine O’Regan, Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber.
Ms. Colvin says she hopes the federal government will continue their “rich and ongoing history” of collaborating with the state government and using social housing construction to create jobs and meet Australia’s housing needs.