New South Wales councils have shared their frustrations with housing affordability in the state, stating that alongside bushfires, floods and rising rent, their communities are struggling and at risk of homelessness.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President, Darriea Turley AM said councils, as the closest level of government to the community, were seeing first hand the impact of rental vacancy rates at all-time lows, when a significant proportion of the community remains locked out of home ownership.
“Housing affordability is arguably the most pressing issue right now affecting communities across the state,” Cr Turley said.
“No one is more aware of the burdens of the rising cost of housing in New South Wales than our 128 councils and their mayors.
“Our councillors are hearing first hand from distressed residents in their communities about the pressures they face while paying some of the most expensive property prices in the world.
“Many people, particularly young adults in our communities, are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the housing market, with home ownership continuing to decline rapidly.
“The housing affordability crisis we are seeing right now is a dire situation.”
Cr Turley said that, despite years of advocacy by local governments for greater state and federal investment in affordable and social housing, and promises that housing affordability was a top priority, investment in this critical piece of the housing spectrum had been neglected.
“We are seeing an estimated shortfall of more than 200,000 social and affordable housing dwellings in NSW,” Cr Turley said.
“The economic impacts of bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic have also added to the number of people in need of affordable or social housing, exacerbating the pre-existing shortfall.
“The recent floods have wiped out thousands of homes in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales and this crisis has been compounded by years of State and Federal Government inaction, resulting in a critical lack of social and affordable housing.
“This has put added pressure on seasonal and visitor accommodation, making it impossible for businesses to attract workers, who can’t find an affordable home to live in.
“People are sleeping in cars, caravan parks are overflowing, and we see these same pressures impacting families and communities right across New South Wales.”
Cr Turley said local government plays an important role in engaging with and planning for the needs of local communities, but that housing costs are largely driven by factors beyond the scope of local planning systems, such as financial and taxation systems, population growth and interest rates.
“Councils want to work with the State and Federal Governments to drive solutions for their communities,” Cr Turley said.
“Councils can only play one part and without a strong partnership approach to the housing affordability crisis, governments will continue to propose band-aid solutions that are unlikely to deliver a holistic and sustainable solution – all at great public cost.
“We need to see clever solutions for this complex issue, and recognition that we need to ensure that genuine state and federal investment in social and affordable housing is a major part of the solution.”