NSW Budget: Some welcome initiatives but inadequate investment to prevent community crisis points

Hand cradling paper figures

Jan Barham MLC, Greens NSW spokesperson on Housing, Homelessness, and Family and Community Services has warned that the latest NSW Budget continues to fall short in preventing key pressures on communities across the state.

“The NSW Government has again failed to adequately invest in addressing the key challenges in our society, including pervasive housing stress and alarming rates of risk to children and young people, to promote wellbeing and improve the long-term social and economic outlook,” Ms Barham said.

“Ahead of the Budget the Government announced $560 million in new funding for community services over four years, including $170 million on efforts to reduce the number of children entering care.

“While this appears to be a long-overdue step toward investing in prevention and family preservation, the budget papers show that overall funding for targeted earlier intervention isn’t increasing. The sad reality remains that the major budget increase in supporting vulnerable children comes from the 1,100 more children and young people than expected entering out of home care.

“Until there is a genuine boost to genuine early intervention services, including universal supports and targeted interventions for families with risk factors for abuse and neglect, we won’t see the cycle broken. The Government can invest now to prevent the crisis or face continued growth in demand for crisis interventions.

“Fewer households were supported in social housing in 15/16 than forecast, revised down from 142,000 to 140,700 households. Even fewer households are expected to be supported in social housing in 2016/17, despite the waiting list for social housing being higher than it has ever been sitting at 60,000 households.”

“The budget for maintenance and repair of Aboriginal Housing dwellings has been cut, down from $28.4 million in 2015/16 to $15 million in 16/17. Considering the huge improvements made to people’s lives and health from repairing rundown homes, this is disappointing and could cost the health budget in the long run.”

“These cuts come as stamp duty revenues of $8.88 billion have smashed forecasts, highlighting how the NSW Government continues to rely on speculative investment in property to balance its budgets, which only makes housing more unaffordable”, said Ms Barham.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

NSW Government fails future generations by ignoring climate change and housing crisis

“A forecast that ignores the major threats to the wellbeing of future generations, climate change and the crisis in affordable housing, is irresponsible” said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson for Climate Change and Housing.

“It’s beyond negligent for the NSW Government to release an Intergenerational Report that fails to provide a plan for action to limit global warming and how NSW is preparing for the increasing impacts of climate change in the coming decades”.

“This report makes the nonsensical prediction that mining royalties and coal prices will continue rising through to 2056[1], but makes no mention of renewable energy and how we must transform our society.”

“The Government’s so-called vision of the future is blinkered to the most serious risks and without a plan for capitalising on the opportunities for clean energy and adaptation.”

The NSW Government’s response to affordable housing is confined to forecasting that 45,000 new homes will be built each year up until 2056, despite average new dwelling numbers hovering around 30,000 per year over the past 15 years.

“Increasing supply does not automatically translate to more affordable housing. NSW needs to adopt affordable housing targets if it is to address the chronic problem of housing stress across the state.”

“The Government has also admitted that it is increasingly dependent on stamp duty for revenue. As long as the Government is reliant on stamp duty windfalls to balance its budget, it will be responsible for fuelling speculative investment in housing and driving up house prices.”

“With the number of people aged 65 and over forecast to comprise 25% of the population by 2056, affordable and accessible housing must be increased to meet rising demand because most older people will be on low incomes.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Complete NSW Intergenerational Report 2016 can be found here: http://www.treasury.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/128144/Intergenerational_Report_2016_-_full_report.pdf

[1] p.75

No affordable rentals for single unemployed people in regional NSW

Photograph of houses

Anglicare Australia’s 2016 Rental Affordability Snapshot paints a stark picture of housing affordability for people on low incomes across regional NSW, with most areas recording very few, if any affordable private rentals for households living on income support payments.

“This year’s Anglicare report shows that we’re not addressing the affordable housing crisis, with the private rental market in regional NSW excluding households on the lowest incomes”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens Spokesperson for Housing.

“It is alarming that none of the regional areas surveyed in NSW had affordable properties for single households on Newstart or Youth Allowance where rent does not exceed 30% of their income.”

“Unless these households can access social housing, they would be living in housing stress and be at great risk of homelessness. They would also likely have to access emergency relief, financial counselling and other support services.”

“Average waiting times for social housing across all areas of NSW are between two and ten years, revealing a chronic shortage of social and affordable housing supply.”

South-East NSW had no properties available for single people on Newstart or Youth Allowance and only 22 affordable and available properties for single pensioners. The large number of holiday homes was identified as a key reason for a lack of affordable housing as it reduces supply and pushes up rents.

In the Riverina, affordability was better with 351 properties of the 1,177 surveyed affordable for low-income households. However, there were still no affordable rental properties for single people on Newstart or Youth Allowance.

The Central West, Far West and Orana had very few options for households in receipt of income support as their sole source of income, with less than 1% of properties affordable for single parent families living on Newstart and the Family Tax Benefit. As with elsewhere, nothing was affordable for single unemployed households.

Only 8.3% of rentals advertised in the Central Coast, Hunter, Great Lakes and Taree region were affordable for income support households. There are few affordable rentals for young families and single pensioners, and none available for singles on Newstart.

In Tamworth, Armidale, Inverell and Moree there were 79 properties recorded as affordable for an income support household, but, as with the other regions, none was available for single people on Newstart or Youth Allowance. Only two properties were found to be affordable for a sole parent on the Parenting Payment with two children.

“No longer can our regions be viewed as a more affordable option for people on very-low incomes. The Government must increase social and affordable housing supply across all NSW regions with a focus on single households to reduce the widespread housing stress experienced by people on low incomes.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot: http://www.anglicare.asn.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/rental-affordability-snapshot-2016.pdf?sfvrsn=7

Affordable housing down 6% on North Coast: Anglicare report – Media release: http://www.janbarham.org.au/2016/04/affordable-housing-6-north-coast-anglicare-report/


Affordable housing down 6% on North Coast: Anglicare report

New research released by Anglicare today shows that just 6.8% of rental properties across the North Coast were affordable for low-income households receiving income support payments, representing a decline of 6% from last year.


“For the fourth year running, Byron Bay recorded no affordable properties available for a household in receipt of income support. There were also no properties available in Ballina or Tweed Heads”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW Spokesperson on Housing.


“Of greater concern is that Byron, Ballina and Tweed Heads have no affordable properties for some households on the minimum wage, showing that even working households can no longer afford to rent in key areas on the North Coast.”


“Not only is the North Coast home to a large number of people on income support, its economy depends on a casual workforce. The lack of affordable housing means that many of these workers struggle to put a roof over their head because of their insecure incomes.”


The Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot recommended that social housing be boosted on the North Coast and that the tax system be reformed to reduce the cost of housing.


“NSW has 60,000 households on the social housing waiting list, with some waiting up to 20 years for housing. These households are forced into housing stress in the private rental market, or end up homeless because there is nowhere affordable to live.”


“The housing crisis is not just happening in our cities; it’s happening in the regions, too. People on low-incomes are being excluded from communities that were once known for their diversity because there is no social housing available. Government must act to turn around the trend of unaffordable housing that is sadly becoming a hallmark of our towns and cities”, Ms Barham said.


For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891


Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot: http://www.anglicare.asn.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/rental-affordability-snapshot-2016.pdf?sfvrsn=7 (North Coast – p. 36).

Make housing affordable: Greens back calls for switch from stamp duty to land tax

Greens NSW Housing spokesperson Jan Barham MLC has welcomed the call by peak bodies from civil society and the business sector to phase out stamp duty and replace it with a broad-based land tax.

“I moved for our 2014 Parliamentary inquiry to recommend a transition from stamp duty to a broader land tax based on the clear evidence that it would improve the opportunity for people to find and afford a home. The Government and Labor wouldn’t support even considering a transition from stamp duty to land tax,” Ms Barham said.

“The new analysis released by NCOSS and the NSW Business Chamber provides more compelling evidence about the benefits for housing affordability and the broader economy.

“It’s time for the Government and Opposition to get over their reluctance to mention tax reform and support a move to tax land value instead of charging stamp duty on transactions.

“Stamp duty adds tens of thousands of dollars to the purchase cost of an average home in New South Wales, creating a barrier for new buyers and a disincentive for people to move despite changes in their housing needs. A broad annual land tax in its place would improve affordability for would-be home owners and promote better use of our existing housing stock and available land.”

Ms Barham said that given the extent of the housing affordability crisis across Sydney and many parts of New South Wales, all levels of government needed to look at using every mechanism available to improve the opportunity for people to find a home.

“Housing policy has been captured by the interests of developers and investors, instead of ensuring people have access to secure, appropriate and affordable homes.

“The Greens have shown that federal governments can improve housing affordability by reforming negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount. At the state level, the Government needs to wean itself off the stamp duty windfalls caused by the housing boom and act in the best interests of households by moving to land tax instead.

“These tax reforms need to be backed up with public and private investment to deliver affordable housing, and with planning reforms to ensure that all new developments provide a fair share of rental accommodation for essential workers and others on low incomes.

“It’s time for all governments and political parties to promote the wellbeing of our communities by ensuring people have the opportunity for a home that suits their needs.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891


Submission on the Management of NSW Public Housing Maintenance Contracts

Photograph of houses

As the spokesperson on Housing and Homelessness, Jan has lodged The Greens NSW Submission to the NSW Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee Inquiry into the Management of NSW Public Housing Maintenance Contracts. The submission was produced in consultation with our Housing Working Group and elected Greens representatives who have worked to support public housing tenants in their community when faced with maintenance issues and related concerns.

You can view or download the full submission as a PDF document.

The submission highlights the following key points:

  1. Housing is an important contributor to the wellbeing of people, households and society
  2. Poor maintenance of public housing is harming tenants’ wellbeing
  3. Maintenance funding shortfalls and the absence of strategies for managing the public housing portfolio have undermined the capacity, quality and sustainability of NSW public housing
  4. Maintenance policies and processes are a common source of tenant frustration, dissatisfaction and complaints

It makes the following recommendations:

  1. That the NSW Government acknowledge that the extent of the housing crisis and its impact on the wellbeing of individuals, households and society requires urgent action across all levels of government to deliver solutions across the full continuum of the housing system.
  2. That the Government acknowledges the importance of housing quality and state of repair to the wellbeing of tenants and ensure Housing NSW and Land and Housing Corporation policies about their obligations as landlord and property manager incorporate supporting and promoting tenants’ wellbeing as a key obligation.
  3. That the Government sets strong, clear targets for improvement in the proportion of public and Aboriginal housing dwellings that are of acceptable standard and directs sufficient investment and action to maintenance and upgrades for all dwellings that are not of acceptable standard.
  4. That the Government outlines a timeline and a detailed plan to ensure that in future they will fully comply with all of their statutory obligations and standing as a model litigant with respect to maintenance and repairs of public housing.
  5. That the Government finalises and releases its Asset Portfolio Strategy, which was originally due to be completed by the end of 2013, as a matter of urgency.
  6. That the Government, in recognition of the ongoing maintenance shortfall in the LAHC budget, prioritises the allocation of sufficient funding to clear the backlog and ensure public housing stock is of an appropriate standard to ensure the wellbeing of tenants and prevent further delays in maintenance or sales of social housing properties to pay for maintenance.
  7. That the Government ensure that any new maintenance policies, processes and contractual arrangements are carefully designed and receive continual evaluation to ensure that they:
    • are responsive to tenants’ needs and prioritise issues that affect the health and wellbeing of tenants, and
    • maximise value for money and efficiency while ensuring the quality and timeliness of work.

Heritage listing for Sirius an opportunity for a social housing win-win

Sirius Apartment Building image by Marek Lambert (Allshots Imaging)

Sirius Apartments 3/4 View by Marek Walter (Allshots Imaging)

Greens MP and Housing spokesperson Jan Barham MLC has welcomed the Heritage Council’s recommendation that the Sirius Apartment Building in The Rocks be listed on the State Heritage Register and is calling on the Government to act urgently to deliver certainty about its future.

“As soon as Parliament resumes, I will introduce a motion calling on the Government to act on the Heritage Council’s recommendation and list Sirius on the State Heritage Register,” Ms Barham said.

“I will also call on the Government to provide for people’s wellbeing by allowing Millers Point residents to relocate into this purpose-built social housing.

“The Government has the opportunity to deliver a win-win for social housing: older and vulnerable Millers Point tenants will have the opportunity to remain connected to their community, and quality inner-city public housing is maintained.”

Ms Barham noted that the NSW Legislative Council had supported a motion in June 2015 acknowledging the significance of the Sirius Building and calling for its protection, along with the expansion of the Sirius model for social housing.

“The Heritage Council’s acknowledgement that Sirius is of state significance and should be protected is something the Minister for Heritage should act on immediately, given that the Government has already supported a resolution recognising the need for protection.

“The Government should never have included Sirius in the planned sell-off of public housing. Unlike the Millers Point housing with its maintenance and access issues, Sirius is less than 35 years old and was designed and built for use as public housing.

“The Social Housing Minister should take this opportunity to ensure this significant part of Sydney’s heritage continues to be used to provide housing for those who need it,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891


Postcard featuring photo of Sirius

Postcard produced for ‘Getting Serious About Sirius’ November 2014 forum hosted by Jan Barham MLC and Sophie Cotsis MLC – 1979 photo supplied with the permission of FACS NSW.

71,000 affordable homes needed in regional NSW

Greens spokesperson on Affordable Housing Jan Barham has called on the NSW Government to address the shortfall of 71,000 affordable homes in regional NSW.

“Unaffordable housing is not just a Sydney issue. Right now, there are thousands of households across regional NSW that are struggling to pay the rent”, said Ms Barham.

“Latest data shows that 71,000 low-income renter households in regional NSW are in housing stress. They are paying more than 30 per cent of their income on household costs, which, for many, means foregoing other essential goods and services to keep a roof over their head.”

“NSW is experiencing gentrification of not only city-based suburbs but also in some coastal regional areas, which are suffering from affordable housing crisis due to the popularity of locations.”

“As at December 2014, only 23,964 dwellings were considered affordable for a low-income household in regional NSW. In Coffs Harbour, 10.6% of rentals were affordable for a very-low income household and in Byron that figure was 3.7%[1].”

“This data is consistent with Anglicare Australia’s mapping of rental affordability in regional areas. Its latest report showed that while there is greater availability of affordable rentals for people earning the minimum wage, most households on income support payments cannot afford rent in the regions[i].”

Ms Barham said that the lack of affordable housing in the regions means that people are resorting to living in overcrowded housing, caravans and their cars because they cannot find an affordable home.

“It’s unacceptable that in NSW we have people living in caravans and cars because of the huge shortage of social and affordable housing. These circumstances impact on people’s wellbeing as housing stress equates to emotional stress. More must be done with planning rules to support those who are vulnerable in this current housing crisis.”

“The data shows that while the NSW Government’s announcement of 6,500 additional social and affordable dwellings is a good first step, it barely scratches the surface of what’s needed to address the affordable housing crisis across the state.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891


  1. Number of NSW renting households in housing stress outside of Sydney

Table 1 

This graph shows that in the 2011 Census, 45,217 very-low income households (those earning less than 50% of the median income for the area) pay more than 30% of their income in rent and associated household costs. Very-low income households generally receive a pension or other income support payment. The graph also shows there were 26,456 low-income households in housing stress. Low income households earn more than 50% but less than 80% of the median income for the area. These totals exclude the Sydney area.

  1. Percentage of housing stress in selected NSW regions

Table 2 

Almost all very-low income households in NSW areas outside of Sydney are in housing stress, with 87% paying more than 30% of their income on household costs. Low-income households fare better, but the majority (54%) are considered to be in housing stress.

  1. Percentage of affordable rental stock for people on very low and low incomes, selected NSW regions

Table 3

There is some variation in the selected NSW regions in affordability of rental stock, with North Coast regions showing limited availability, particularly for very-low income households. The selected inland areas showed higher rates for both very-low and low income households, but affordable stock still fell short of demand.

  1. Numbers of very-low and low-income households in housing stress and the number of affordable rental housing stock, selected regions, December 2014


This graph illustrates the shortfall of affordable rental housing in the selected regions to meet demand. The number of very-low and low-income households exceeds the number of affordable rental stock as at June 2011. While this data is slightly outdated, the number of affordable rental housing stock for low-income households as at December 2014 has declined in all the selected regions except for Orange, Dubbo and Albury, which saw slight increases.


Data collated using the Housing Kit Data Base, http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/centre-for-affordable-housing/nsw-local-government-housing-kit/local-government-housing-kit-database/2011-census-database

[1]Households described as being ‘very low income’ are those earning less than 50 percent of the NSW or Sydney median income, depending on where they live.

Households earning more than 50 percent but less than 80 percent of the NSW or Sydney median income are described as earning a ‘low income’ (http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/centre-for-affordable-housing/about-affordable-housing/who-are-very-low-to-moderate-income-earners)

[i] Anglicare Australia (2015) ‘Rental Affordability Snapshot’ http://www.anglicare.asn.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/rental-affordability-snapshot-2015.pdf p.5

Government response to inquiry must deliver action on housing crisis

NSW Greens spokesperson on Housing Jan Barham is urging the Government to follow through with a comprehensive implementation plan on housing affordability after its response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing supported many of the recommendations.

“Although this response has been a long time coming, the NSW Government’s predominately positive responses to the inquiry’s recommendations and acknowledgement of its extensive examination of the issues relating to social and affordable housing is welcome”, said Ms Barham.

“Our inquiry found that there was a clear shortage of affordable and social housing across Sydney and New South Wales. The Government’s support for the provision and maintenance of affordable housing to be a key objective of the state planning system, including support for planning controls such as inclusionary zoning to develop more affordable housing is a positive step forward.”

“It’s essential that the Government now acts to deliver more affordable housing and improve the opportunity for people on low and moderate incomes to find a stable and suitable home close to jobs, education and services. The Government must make it a priority to support the delivery of additional affordable housing supply and maintain existing stock.”

“The Government has also acknowledged that there are already a number of planning instruments available to develop affordable housing within the private market. There is more that can be done to ensure new development delivers a range of housing types and diverse communities, instead of increasing gentrification.”

Some important recommendations were rejected by the Government.

“The opposition to making housing affordability a relevant consideration in disputes regarding excessive site fee increases for residential park residents is unfair. Most park residents are on low incomes and housing affordability should be a key consideration when the NSW Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal considers unfair fee increases.”

“It’s also disappointing the Government rejected a proposal for ten per cent of dwellings in multi-unit properties sold by the state in Sydney to be allocated as affordable housing. Sydney has an acute shortage of social and affordable housing and this recommendation offers a low-cost way of boosting supply.”

“A whole of government approach and better collaboration with Federal and local governments is needed to halt the increasing housing crisis and ensure prospective home owners and renters can secure an affordable home,” Ms Barham said.

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

Background: Social, Public and Affordable Housing Inquiry report and Government response

Related: Government must back social housing growth with public investment, support services and housing affordability reform

Government must back social housing growth with public investment, support services and housing affordability reform

Photograph of houses

The Greens’ Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham MLC, has welcomed the NSW Government’s commitment to grow social housing supply as a long-overdue response to the state’s housing crisis, but has called on the Government to commit to investment and substantial reforms that are needed to provide affordable and secure housing.

“The Greens welcome the commitment to grow social housing supply and support the community housing sector to increase its capacity. This would be a step toward addressing the neglect social housing has suffered under successive governments. But with 60,000 people currently on the waiting list, overcoming the housing crisis in New South Wales must be a priority across the whole of Government,” Ms Barham said.

“The Government must direct public investment into delivering new social housing supply, in addition to their plan to draw on the capacity of the private and non-government sectors. The Greens announced a housing initiative before the 2015 election to establish an immediate $4.5 billion funding stream for new social and affordable housing, which could be delivered without the sale or redevelopment of public assets. This new funding would add a significant boost to the supply of social and public housing.

“The Government’s approach deliver private developers a windfall from their 70% share of the higher-density redeveloped public housing sites. It’s crucial that state and local governments capture a fair share of the increased value coming from rezoning and redevelopment in all new property developments across the state, and that those funds are reinvested into delivering more social and affordable housing and infrastructure.”

Ms Barham warned that the Government must do more to support existing social housing tenants affected by the proposed redevelopments of older stock.

“The Government must learn the lessons from a history of mishandled relocations, including the ongoing sell-off at Millers Point, that have affected the wellbeing of tenants, many of whom are older or vulnerable. These tenants must be genuinely consulted and supported to minimise the social impacts of displacement and disruption. Tenants deserve the opportunity to age in place, remain in the area where their life is based and maintain their connections to services and social supports.

“It’s important that the Government works to develop regionally-focused models for housing and wrap-around services that address the rise in homelessness by providing additional support and options at the local level. Social housing and the services that support it must meet the specific needs of the locations and the population groups that are most disadvantaged and have the greatest difficulty accessing housing, including Aboriginal people, people with disability, older people and youth. I strongly encourage the Government to work closely with local government and community organisations across all regions,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that although a boost of social housing was essential, the social housing system would continue to fall short of addressing need unless all levels of government worked to address the full range of factors affecting housing affordability in Sydney and many regions across the state.

“Even with more social housing, people will continue to face severe problems accessing affordable housing and increased risk of homelessness unless all levels of government address the high housing costs, low rental vacancies and insecure tenure in the private housing market. This includes addressing the tax policies and other factors that are driving speculative investment without improving the supply of new affordable housing,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

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