By ALLISON HORE
Waverley Council has won a five year battle to give councils in metropolitan Sydney more power to levy developers for losses in their local government area’s affordable housing stock.
Previously, in order for councils around Sydney to receive a monetary contribution from developers who had removed affordable rental housing for a high-end development, councils had to prove the property was considered “affordable” on the 28th January 2000.
This meant councils were missing out on levies from developers for removing properties which were not considered “affordable” by 2000s standards, but are considered affordable today. Waverley Council has successfully lobbied the government for the date to be scrapped from the Affordable Rental Housing State Environmental Planning Policy (ARHSEPP).
“Trying to prove that a rental unit was deemed affordable housing 20 years ago when there’s little or no available rental data meant councils including Waverley were losing affordable housing supply with no means of creating more,” Mayor of Waverley Paula Masselos explained.
“In the last few years alone, our council has lost more than $3million in potential monetary contribution payments to offset the loss of affordable housing in Waverley at a time when housing affordability generally has emerged as a critical issue of state significance.”
“If our Council lost that amount, imagine the total losses across Greater Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong? It’s frightening.”
Waverley Council began advocating to change the ARHSEPP in 2017 and rallied the Planning Institute of Australia for their help to bring the issue to the attention of the department. In 2019, Council’s strategic town planners met with the Institute’s National Policy Manager and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s housing team to explain how the policy was leaving councils lacking.
From the first of February, the date was cut from the policy.
“I am very proud of Waverley Council’s Strategic Town Planning team for making it their mission to bring about this significant policy change and make a real difference to the lives of thousands of families in NSW,” said Ms. Masselos.
“I also applaud the Department for taking this step.”
Need for more affordable housing
In Waverley, affordable housing is lacking. In a housing report put together by council, they agreed “the current forms of affordable housing supply are not going to meet the relevant demand”
To qualify for affordable housing in the Waverley council area, a household’s total income must be between $68,640 and $118,300 per year. Households must also be able to demonstrate they have lived in the council area for at least the past 3 years or lived or worked in Waverley for at least 5 of the past 10 years.
Although Waverley remains one of the wealthiest local government areas across the state, with 39 percent of households considered “high income households,” the household income to house price ratio has risen from 4 in 1994 to 12 in 2016.
Further, the top three local industries are retail, accommodation and food services. This means there are approximately 20,000 workers on very low, low or moderate incomes across the local government area. Many of these workers live in other parts of Sydney and commute for over an hour a day due to lack of affordable housing in the area.
The Waverley Council says the change to the ARHSEPP will allow councils to build up their affordable housing stock.