Auditor-General’s report gives Government another reminder that they need to deliver on social housing

The NSW Government has again been called on to deliver policies and programs to ensure the social housing system delivers better outcomes for people in need of housing assistance, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and Housing spokesperson.

“Today’s report by the Auditor-General on community housing recommends that the Government deliver a comprehensive social housing policy and make public its plan for managing public housing assets. After delaying for far too long, it’s time for the Government to act and fix our social housing system,” Ms Barham said.

“This is the third major report to give clear directions about what the Government needs to deliver, following the Parliamentary Inquiry we established in 2014 and a previous Auditor-General’s report in 2013. The Government has failed to meet every deadline it has been given, and it’s time for them to deliver.”

Ms Barham noted that the Auditor-General had also identified that Government needed to improve its handling of transfers to community housing by developing clear performance measures and contracts that ensure the future growth of the sector.

“The Auditor-General notes that there has been strong growth in the community housing sector, which is welcome. Community housing providers across the state are an important part of our housing system, providing not just shelter but connecting disadvantage and vulnerable people with support services that help to improve the quality and stability of their living arrangements,” Ms Barham said.

“Our Parliamentary inquiry had identified the importance of long term leases when public housing is transferred to community housing providers, along with the need for improved tenant outcomes, and the Auditor-General has reinforced these recommendations.

“Community housing providers need to be able to leverage the assets to deliver new social housing. The Government must ensure that their relationships and contracts with community housing providers will secure quality housing and support services for as many people as possible,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND:

Auditor General’s Performance Audit Report on Community Housing

Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing Recommendations and Final Report

Making the Best Use of Public Housing

Holiday letting comes under NSW Parliament scrutiny

The Greens’ Tourism and North Coast spokesperson, Jan Barham MLC, has welcomed a NSW Parliamentary inquiry into holiday letting and is encouraging local residents to make submissions.

“It’s an important move that the State Parliament will be conducting an inquiry into the use of properties for short term tourism use, including the short term holiday letting of residential premises,” Ms Barham said.

“The contentious issue of holiday letting has had many impacts on North Coast communities, and despite the lack of planning approval it has continued to flourish. Without approval and regulation, the short term holiday letting of residential premises doesn’t pay its way but adds to the impacts and costs to council, as well as depriving approved tourism accommodation providers of business.

“Other issues that may come to light through this inquiry into holiday letting are the possibilities for tax evasion, and that property owners may be claiming negative gearing and a capital gains tax discount while effectively running commercial businesses,” said Ms Barham.

“The inquiry will also examine the situation with online accommodation platforms such as Airbnb, and regulatory issues around the ‘sharing economy’ model of accommodation for travellers. While these platforms offer some great benefits for home-owners to be able to earn income when their property is under-occupied and for travellers to experience a local connection to the community they’re visiting, it has become clear that the use has extended to the permanent rental of whole premises for tourism in some areas. This aspect of online accommodation services may lead to impacts for neighbours as well as the regulated tourism industry providers. The lack of approval creates an uneven playing field within the industry and also a lack of compliance with industry standards relating to safety, insurance and other regulatory issues.

Ms Barham noted that in Byron and Tweed Shires it is estimated that there are nearly 2000 residential properties being used for short term tourism, which equates to up to 5000 residents who aren’t able to be housed in the local area.

“For more than a decade the unregulated use of residential properties has caused negative impacts in Byron Shire for residents, including noise and antisocial behaviour. It has also had a major effect on the availability and affordability of housing. It makes a mockery of strategic planning that defines residential and commercial zones and the impacts on infrastructure. The use of holiday let brings additional visitors to the shire, and particularly in Byron Bay it adds to the traffic issues. Residents have suffered for too long, missing out on neighbours and a sense of community. For those seeking rental properties in the area, it has reduced the available stock, contributing to this being one of the most unavailable and unaffordable regional areas in NSW. Importantly for those who stay in these properties, there could also be serious issues if there was an accident or injury as insurance doesn’t cover unapproved uses,” Ms Barham said.

“In the Tweed Shire, the council staff report identified that the use of 900 residential dwellings for short term premises is a prohibited use in residential zones, but the council resolved to allow the use. The NSW Law Society and court decisions have also defined that the unregulated use of dwellings is a prohibited use.”

The Legislative Assembly inquiry into the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW will receive submissions until the 9th November.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND:

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING

Terms of reference for an inquiry into the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW

That the Committee inquire into and report on the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW, with particular reference to:
a) The current situation in NSW and comparison with other jurisdictions
b) The differences between traditional accommodation providers and online platforms
c) The growth of short-term and online letting, and the changing character of the market
d) The economic impacts of short-term letting on local and the state economies
e) Regulatory issues posed by short-term letting including customer safety, land use
planning and neighbourhood amenity, and licensing and taxation
f) Any other related matters.

Welcome progress on Out-of-Home Care transition but effort needed on Aboriginal services and early intervention

The release of an Auditor-General’s report on the transfer of out-of-home care services to the non-government sector is welcome but some key areas of concern must be addressed by the NSW Government, says Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

“The transition of out-of-home care from Community Services to non-government organisations (NGOs) was a key recommendation of the 2008 Wood Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection, and the overall indication is that this process remains on track,” Ms Barham said.

“More than half of care placements are now managed by NGOs and the sector’s capacity has continued to develop. It’s essential that all vulnerable children who are unable to live with their family receive quality care that is as stable, enriching and culturally appropriate as possible.”

But Ms Barham noted that the Auditor-General had highlighted several key areas that must be addressed to ensure the wellbeing of children in out-of-home care.

“The declining trend in children being returned to their families is a troubling sign, and one that requires more focus from Government. As the number of children in out-of-home care continues to grow, it highlights that a significant boost to services for early intervention, prevention and family restoration is vital to keeping families together in the first place, reducing risk of harm and breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse and neglect.

“The Auditor-General’s warning about the need for a clear strategy to develop Aboriginal NGOs to provide services for Aboriginal children and young people must be addressed urgently. Given the drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in care, we have to do everything we can to ensure Aboriginal communities are supported by Aboriginal services,” Ms Barham said.

“In 2011-12 the Government had committed to supporting the development of new Aboriginal services, but this new report makes clear that there is a lack of strategy and a shortage of appropriate service providers. This puts at risk the capacity to ensure Aboriginal children in care grow up with a connection to their family, community and culture, and there are questions to be asked about why that Government commitment hasn’t been followed through.

“The Government must also act on the Auditor-General’s recommendation to develop wellbeing outcomes for children in care. Without a clear set of outcomes that reflect the quality of children’s lives, we remain uncertain about what is working and what isn’t in terms of ensuring services and care placements are helping children to have the best opportunities and quality of life possible.

Ms Barham also warned against using financial incentives for adoption within the out-of-home care system.

“Adoption is never going to be an appropriate or effective solution for the vast majority of children placed in care. The focus must be on ensuring the wellbeing and safety of all children by preventing the need for children to come into care in the first place, and by ensuring the out-of-home care system delivers quality care for all of those children who need it,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND: Auditor-General’s report on Transferring out-of-home care to non-government organisations