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Pressure builds for affordable and secure rental

New developments have increased pressure on the Berejiklian government to act decisively on rental affordability and security.

Revised draft plans by the government’s Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) released on October 26 drew widespread criticism that the GSC had failed to respond adequately to the seriousness of Sydney’s affordability crisis. Our city’s housing is now ranked second least affordable in the world, behind only Hong Kong.

Despite 87 per cent of submissions to the GSC on this issue favouring stronger targets for affordable units in new developments, the original low targets and weak guidelines were maintained in the GSC’s second draft: only 5-10 per cent of the post-rezoning “uplift” of added units, subject to vague “viability”, and only available to low and very low-income households, not those of moderate income.

The Sydney Alliance, representing not-for-profit community organisations (including the Uniting Church and its agency Uniting), expressed concern at the GSC’s lack of response to the community groundswell for better affordable rental options.

Said Magnus Linder, Chair of the Sydney Alliance Housing Team: “A year ago the first drafts had the same percentages for affordable rental housing. The debate has progressed but the number has not.

“Civil society’s top priority in these plans was to see a 15 per cent minimum established across all private developments, and 30 per cent on public land,” he said.

“While these revised drafts recognise that moderate income households are under increasing housing stress they lack any target for affordable housing that includes them,” he said.

“We’re calling on the NSW government to pass the Greater Regional Plan with higher targets for affordable rental housing and get these homes built.”

Over 130 organisations have backed the 15-30 per cent targets. Over 18,000 have signed a petition for this, organised by Vinnies (another Sydney Alliance partner). Public assemblies on the issue have drawn a total of almost a thousand people, including leaders of diverse faiths, language communities, educational and union bodies.

The ALP Opposition has adopted affordable unit targets close to the Sydney Alliance’s (15-25 per cent); but so far the government has not committed to clear rental affordability targets, despite Gladys Berejiklian upon becoming premier nominating housing affordability as one of her highest priorities.

The Opposition has also backed the call by the Make Renting Fair alliance (also including the Uniting Church and Uniting) for an end to “no grounds” evictions under NSW law. The government has responded to this call by promising to take action on rental security in the new year.

Make Renting Fair seeks reform of the present “carte blanche” allowing landlords to evict tenants beyond fixed terms without having to show reasonable grounds – a provision allowing some landlords to victimise tenants who make valid complaints for health and safety improvements. The campaign calls for this to be replaced by an agreed list of reasonable grounds – such as impending demolition or major renovations or a family member needing to move into the premises.

The Greens strongly support both campaigns’ targets.

 

 

Supporters of affordable and secure rental are being asked to send a message to the Premier urging stronger action. For more information, contact Stafford Sanders at Uniting Social Justice Forum.

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