The ban on evicting people who owe rent on their homes was due to end in NSW in November. The measure was part of governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent thousands of people who had lost their income from becoming homeless.
Like other government responses to COVID (e.g. the supplement that lifted people in receipt of income support out of poverty), the ban on rental evictions was due to come to an end in the rush to return to the pre-pandemic order of things.
The NSW government has announced a transition period to 12 February 2022 but who knows what happens then, as the latest variant of COVID 19 spreads across the globe. People renting from not-for-profit groups are excluded from this ban on evictions.
Just as COVID exposed the threadbare nature of our income support, aged and disability care arrangements, it also highlighted the precarious nature of the living arrangements many Australians endure every day: one illness, accident or other misfortune away from losing their homes.
Affordable housing has been a growing problem for quite some time; only recently has it become a topic of conversation across the country. Even the Country Women’s Association is campaigning for action in regional communities which, like those in Queanbeyan-Palerang, are struggling to provide enough homes at prices people can afford.
Queanbeyan-Palerang residents raised the matter with senior QPRC staff in community briefings in May this year. Council’s response was that it left such matters to the private sector. Clearly, that strategy isn’t working.
In all the years I’ve been following council matters, never have I seen a report on just how much affordable housing has been delivered in the private housing developments council approves.
In one case, developers went back to council seeking approval to build even smaller lots to meet their affordable housing requirement. You can see the result in parts of Googong. And the same will happen in South Jerrabomberra and, no doubt, in Bungendore.
In my own neighbourhood, which is a mix of housing types, small townhouses that once housed single people or couples now house families with children. People pay a lot more for less space and amenity.
Community advocates in Braidwood have raised the housing situation with The Greens during the election campaign. The challenges there include relatively large minimum lot sizes under the state heritage listing of the town and its surroundings, as well as rising demand and limited land supply.
Housing advocates in Queanbeyan met a few candidates to brief us. Listening to them, it became clear just how urgent the problem is in the face of growing demand and skyrocketing house prices. Advocates are sending people to Goulburn to find somewhere they can afford to live, away from their support networks. Meantime, NSW housing authorities sell land to private buyers and don’t replace the stock. Just where the proceeds are directed is unclear.
What is clear it that we need a local housing strategy to help meet current needs for affordable housing and crisis accommodation. We need to plan for replacing ageing housing stock, changes in the size and composition of households, and the needs of all Australians on low to moderate incomes.
Numerous NSW councils have local housing strategies. State environmental planning regulations also recognise a role for local government. In a welcome move, QPRC will participate in a trial of new housing models under the NSW government’s Housing 2041 Strategy [add link: https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Policy-and-Legislation/Housing/A-Housing-Strategy-for-NSW]. Council staff have also listed development of a housing strategy as work for the new council in 2022.
We can address disadvantage in our community, make a real difference to the lives of people, generate local jobs and improve housing so it is ready for climate change.
Authorised by D. Hayden for The Greens NSW. Suite D, 263-279 Broadway, GLEBE NSW 2037.