Premier Baird must stand up for the vulnerable harmed by a cruel Federal Budget

Premier Mike Baird must use Sunday’s meeting of chief ministers to raise the harms the Federal Budget would cause for disadvantaged groups and the pressures it would place on NSW services and programs, says Greens MP Jan Barham.

“The Federal Budget has cut enormous holes in this country’s safety net and is set to put already vulnerable people at risk of poverty, homelessness and deep disadvantage.

“The biggest impacts in this budget will be felt by the people who are least equipped to deal with further challenges,” warned Ms Barham, the Greens NSW spokesperson for Ageing, Disability Services, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, and Family and Community Services.

Ms Barham’s call comes ahead of Sunday’s meeting of state and territory government leaders in Sydney to discuss how they will deal with cuts to Commonwealth funding.

“The cost-shifting in health and education are obvious concerns for the state and territory governments, including NSW. But the cuts and changes to programs that support younger people, older people, people with disabilities, Aboriginal communities, the homeless and those at risk of homelessness will see the state government faced with increasing numbers of people in crisis,” said Ms Barham.

“Changes to pension eligibility and indexation will push people deeper into poverty. Removal of housing investment and support will drive people further into housing stress. The withdrawal of funding to Aboriginal services and programs will widen the gap. This is a budget that promotes inequality, and the unfair burden will fall on those who can least withstand it,” Ms Barham said.

“Instead of providing people with support and opportunity, this Budget is going to leave vulnerable people under greater pressure to overcome the challenges they face, while they receive far less assistance and support.

“The Premier needs to make the case that investment in that support is crucial to securing people’s wellbeing and preventing them from suffering harm,” Ms Barham concluded.

Adjournment speech on the Federal Budget from the NSW Legislative Council, 14 May 2014:

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

NSW rental affordability crisis needs urgent action

The NSW Government must act to address the worsening rental affordability crisis across the state, warns Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham.

“Without a dedicated Housing Minister and with ongoing uncertainty about agreements with the Commonwealth on housing and homelessness, an already grim situation could quickly deteriorate further,” Ms Barham said.

“The Government needs to ensure affordable housing is an essential target in planning future development in Sydney and regional centres. The State Government must call on the Commonwealth to improve income support to vulnerable people and commit to extending the partnership agreements that fund housing programs,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham’s call for action follows yesterday’s release of Anglicare’s latest Rental Affordability Snapshot.

“Anglicare’s report shows that the problems with rental affordability in NSW are widespread and leave the most vulnerable at risk of homelessness. In Sydney, only 33 of the more than 12,000 available rentals were affordable and appropriate to people on income support. The problem is also worsening in the regions. In many regional areas jobs can be hard to come by, and the lack of affordable housing for people on income support is presents additional challenges. In my home town of Byron Bay, there were no rentals appropriate to people on the minimum wage or income support.

“The Premier should acknowledge the extent of the affordable housing problems in NSW by appointing a Minister with dedicated responsibility to fix it.

“There are things that can and must be done at the state level, without waiting for federal support. The NSW Government can provide greater support to help vulnerable and disadvantaged people access and maintain appropriate rental accommodation and break away from what is sometimes intergenerational disadvantage. The Government must also review its social housing stock and deliver on its overdue strategies to provide the housing that is needed, including single-person dwellings and housing for the aged and people with disabilities.

“Coordinating the state’s social and affordable housing delivery, pressing the Federal Government to meet its commitments, and supporting innovation in the housing sector are challenges that need an urgent focus,” Ms Barham concluded.

Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot for Greater Sydney

Anglicare National Rental Affordability Snapshot (incl. NSW regions)

NSW Select Committee Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing

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

Lack of transparency and accountability on public housing sell-off

Question on notice asked on 30 January 2014, answered by Government on 6 March:

5404—Family and Community Services—SOCIAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT INTO MILLERS POINT PUBLIC HOUSING

Ms Barham to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for the Illawarra representing the Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women—

When will the Social Impact Assessment into the sell-off of public housing in Millers Point, including the questions asked of residents as part of the assessment process, be made publicly available?
How many responses were received from Millers Point residents to the surveys carried out as part of the Social Impact Assessment into the sell-off of public housing?
Answer—

Information relating to social housing in Millers Point will be available once the NSW Government’s plan is ready for release.

Question without notice, 19 March 2014:

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. Will the Minister advise the House why the sell-off of nearly 300 public housing properties at The Rocks and Millers Point was announced less than two weeks after my questions on notice about resident consultation were left unanswered? Will the Minister advise the House why the sell-off was announced less than one week after representatives of Housing NSW and the Land and Housing Corporation appeared at the inquiry into social, public and affordable housing? Will the Minister advise the House why the Government’s sudden announcement, which will have a huge impact on the lives of those communities, demonstrates a fundamental lack of openness, transparency and respect for those residents?

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I thank the honourable member for her question. At the outset I indicate that I do not agree with the latter parts of the member’s question. The O’Farrell-Stoner Government is committed to a sustainable public housing system. That includes making sure public housing resources are being distributed fairly across New South Wales so that as many people as possible can be helped. This morning the Minister for Family and Community Services announced that the New South Wales Government will sell its public housing properties in Millers Point, Gloucester Street, and the Sirius building in The Rocks due to the high cost of maintenance, the significant investment required to improve properties to an acceptable standard and high potential resale value.

The Government did not take this decision lightly, but it is the right decision in the interests of a sustainable and fair social housing system. This system currently has more than 57,000 families on the waiting list. The long waiting list is due to the failure of those opposite when they were in Government for 16 years. Those opposite failed the people of New South Wales for 16 years. The proceeds from the sale will be reinvested directly into the public housing system. That is the fundamental point. Maintenance on properties in Millers Point costs more than four times the average for public housing dwellings in New South Wales. In the past two years nearly $7 million has been spent maintaining this small number of properties. Subsidies to tenants in the last year reached almost $9 million, with individual tenants receiving subsidies as high as $44,000 per annum. Let us compare that to other places. This compares to the subsidy of $8,000 per year in Campbelltown, $7,000 per year in Gosford and $11,000 in Wollongong.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Peter Primrose to order for the first time.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: For every subsidised tenancy in Millers Point the Government could assist three to five tenants elsewhere, which means that three to five tenants on the waiting list are missing out on housing because the Government is subsidising these properties.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Peter Phelps to order for first time. Order! I call the Hon. Sophie Cotsis to order for the first time.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: When the former Labor Government began selling off public housing in Millers Point in 2008 it let other properties fall into disrepair. There was failure on its part for 16 ears. The former Labor Government left us with repair bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore some of these terrace houses to heritage standards.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Sophie Cotsis has other occasions during proceedings of the House when she can raise this issue. The honourable member should not shout at the Minister for the duration of his answer. Other members, including the Hon. Peter Primrose, the Hon. Penny Sharpe and the Hon. Walt Secord should bear that in mind as well. The Minister has the call.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: The community expects us to invest in a sustainable social housing system that supports disadvantaged people across the entire State.

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate on his answer in relation to the third part of my question?

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I thank the member for the opportunity to continue. The Government’s ability to assist more people on the waiting list is severely limited if it sinks millions of dollars into a small number of properties. I recognise that some of these tenants have lived in public housing in Millers Point for decades and that moving to a new location may be difficult. Today the Minister has announced that a team of more than 40 Housing NSW staff is already on the ground talking to and assisting these tenants. Over the next three months a specialist relocation team will work with each and every tenant to understand their needs, and work with them and their families through this relocation. It is a relocation; no-one is telling these tenants that they will not have housing into the future. It is a prioritising of the proper approach by the Government. These staff are senior client services staff who have been selected for the role. Initially each tenant will be visited to undertake a housing needs assessment.

The Hon. Sophie Cotsis: You are throwing them on the street.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: The Hon. Sophie Cotsis should be ashamed of herself, and the record of her government. I say shame on her. This assessment involves understanding the individual needs of each member of the household and discussing their preferences for relocation. Any special needs will be identified in detail, including any medical needs, mental health issues, disabilities and other complex needs. The same officer will work with the tenant throughout the process of relocation. All reasonable costs of moving, including reconnecting utilities, will be covered by the Government. [Time expired.]

Question without notice, 20 March 2014:

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. Will the Minister advise what proportion of the proceeds from the sale of public housing in Millers Point and The Rocks will be spent on the construction of new social housing? Given that the Government has still not produced the Asset Portfolio Strategy that the Auditor-General recommended be completed in December 2013, and that the use of proceeds from previous sales in the area have not been transparently accounted for, what guarantee has been given to the more than 57,000 people on the social housing waiting list that the money from the sell-off will deliver much-needed housing stock and will not be used as a temporary fix for the Government’s $330 million maintenance shortfall?

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am sure the Hon. Jan Barham was hoping to receive an answer from the Minister, not from the rest of the Chamber.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I thank the member for her question. Let me assure her, as I indicated only yesterday, that all of the proceeds will go back into the public housing sector. I repeat: all of the proceeds. The Hon. Pru Goward has made it clear—

The Hon. Sophie Cotsis: Even the Minister didn’t say that.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I cannot hear you when you mumble. Speak up a little bit so I have a chance of hearing you.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I do not want to hear her at all. The Minister has the call.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: The Hon. Pru Goward has made it clear that the purpose of selling the properties is so that substantial money can be reinvested in public housing. Members opposite screamed and carried on when I mentioned the list. They should have listened when I spoke on this question the other day. I will read the list to them again and maybe this time they will listen.

The Hon. Jan Barham: Point of order: My point of order is relevance. I specifically asked about the breakdown between maintenance and new housing.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I think the Minister thus far has been largely generally relevant in his answer. He should ensure he remains so during the balance of his answer.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: As I stated previously, the former Ministers responsible for public housing made it clear in a number of statements that these properties needed to be sold so that the proceeds could be reinvested in public housing. That is what the Government is doing. I made it clear on the last occasion that the maintenance costs for these properties can be as high as $44,000 per annum, compared with other properties that cost only $8,000 to $10,000 per annum. This means there will be substantially more money. The Hon. Pru Goward announced that the Government will sell its public housing properties—and this is the list as I announced it—in Millers Point, Gloucester Street and the Sirius building in The Rocks. The Minister said the reason for the sale was the high cost of maintenance and that the significant investment required to improve properties to an exceptional standard will result in a high potential resale value. It is a pity members opposite did not listen on the previous occasion.

See also:

Millers Point Public Housing Statement

The O’Farrell Government today announced the sale of 293 public housing properties in Millers Point and the Rocks with the move expected to displace more than 400 public housing tenants.

This is despite the fact that they have to date failed to undertake a complete assessment of the housing stock in question and that they have not developed a staged strategy to ensure certainty for the public housing tenants affected.

Greens MP and Housing Spokesperson, Jan Barham said:

“It is simply unacceptable that the government has made this announcement without notifying residents, and only days after it fronted the Parliament’s Housing inquiry.

“Affordable and appropriate housing is a basic human right and there is already too little social housing stock within Sydney’s CBD and surrounds.

“The Government is selling off housing without a strategy for how it will manage its public housing system, while residents have been left without answers about the potential disruption to their community and lives,” Ms Barham said.

Greens MP and Planning spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“This is a government that cannot see beyond short term financial gains, to long term future planning for our communities.

“In the face of a severe housing affordability crisis in Sydney, the O’Farrell government is selling off some of the most centrally located public housing in the city.

“With the failure to provide any serious affordable housing units in the State’s largest construction site at Barangaroo and now the sale of Millers Point properties it is clear that this government sees no place for social housing anywhere near the CBD.

“We need to break down barriers for social inclusion, avoid the ghetto like public housing precincts of the 1970s and retain the kind of housing mix that makes Millers Point so successful,” Mr Shoebridge said

Media Contact:

Jan Barham 0447 853 891

David Shoebridge 9230 3030

Parliamentary housing inquiries: Background and resources for submissions

You may already be aware that two inquiries into housing have recently commenced:

Each community in NSW has its own housing and homelessness issues, and I hope that there will be submissions to both inquiries that highlight those local challenges and the potential solutions. If you are considering preparing a submission then you might find some of these general resources helpful in providing supporting evidence:

  1. The Auditor-General’s report on Making the best use of public housing.
  2. Australians for Affordable Housing has a lot of great papers on housing stress and affordability issues.
  3. The Grattan Institute’s Cities program has produced several reports on housing policy, including Renovating housing policy, Tomorrows suburbs: Building flexible neighbourhoods and Getting the housing we want.
  4. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) produces a tremendous amount of research and literature reviews.
  5. Saul Eslake’s recent presentation to the 122nd Annual Henry George Commemorative dinner, 50 Years of Housing Failure, raises some important issues about housing and the impacts of tax policies and ineffective programs.
  6. Shelter NSW provides a range of information relevant to affordable and social housing, and some of the presentations from their Housing Crossroads conference earlier this year are especially useful.
  7. A Productivity Commission working paper on Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia highlights many of the issues relating to social and economic disadvantage, including how housing can be related to poverty and other obstacles to wellbeing.
  8. The Australian Greens’ Homelessness Action Plan also identifies some policy options to deliver more housing and reduce homelessness.

If you are after any additional information about housing issues, please feel free to contact my office and we will attempt to assist you.

Residential Parks Open Data Challenge Update

The Residential (Land Lease) Communities Bill 2013 passed the New South Wales Legislative Council on Nov 12, 2013. You can access the debate here.

We want to make it clear that even though the Bill has passed through NSW Parliament, we are still welcoming participation and input on the NSW Legislation Open Data Challenge. Please keep sending in photos, stories, data and suggestions for the project.

With the support of the Labor Party, Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers Party we were able to establish an inquiry looking at social and affordable housing in NSW. We would encourage you to make submissions to this inquiry. The terms of reference for the inquiry are here.

We have started analyzing the data and have pulled together a short Prezi presentation which can be found below. This is very much a work in progress and we will update it more as we receive more information.

 

Residential Parks (DraftNov15)

A once in a generation opportunity to get affordable housing right

Yesterday’s establishment of a broad-ranging inquiry into affordable and social housing is an opportunity to address the affordable housing crisis facing NSW. I welcome the cooperation of Labor and the cross-bench parties to establish a Select Committee to inquire into affordable, social and public housing.

The inquiry, to be chaired by Christian Democratic Party MP Paul Green and with representation from the Government, Opposition and the Greens, has been given broad terms of reference that include supply and demand issues, design approaches and social service integration, and possible recommendations on policy initiatives, planning reforms and other mechanisms to improve the capacity of affordable, social and public housing.

Housing affordability pressures in this state are driving many people further into social and economic disadvantage. The social and public housing systems are unable to meet the needs of people who can’t find shelter in the private market.

The inquiry will be able to draw on the great deal of work being done by researchers, policy bodies and stakeholder groups, and to review projects and initiatives elsewhere.

We need to improve housing policy before the problems get worse. Housing issues have an enormous impact on people’s wellbeing.

Addressing the housing crisis is crucial to prevent the ongoing rise of homelessness and social vulnerability in NSW.

The inquiry will report to Parliament by 9 September 2014.

Last night I gave an adjournment speech on the recent attention being given to housing affordability pressures and the strain on our social housing system, and the need for a housing policy that is visionary in its pursuit of community wellbeing and resilient and cohesive communities. You can read my speech here.

Find out more about the inquiry from the Select Committee’s web page.

NSW Legislation Open Data Creative Challenge

Greens MP and Housing & Arts spokesperson Jan Barham is inviting graphic designers, creative artists, data analysts, policy wonks, geospatial information system (GIS) specialists, residential park residents and ‘open/public data’ aficionados to participate in a New South Wales Legislation Open Data Challenge.

Jan is seeking data analysis, apps, data visualisations, multimedia presentations and open source data collection to help NSW politicians and communities get a more informed picture of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Bill 2013. With better information we can hopefully get an improved policy and legislation outcome for all residents of residential parks in NSW.

Background

The NSW Government has recently introduced the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Bill 2013[1]. The Bill reforms the way caravan parks and manufactured home estates are managed and governed in NSW.

These parks are not just places for tourists and campers having a week away on NSW’s beautiful coast or regional towns. Caravan parks (also known as residential parks) are home to approximately 33,000 permanent residents. In regional and rural communities residential parks play an important part in the affordable housing mix. For a more detailed background on the legislation please the material below.

Why an Open Data Challenge?

Often governments make important policy decisions that affect the everyday lives of citizens without sufficient evidence or information. In other instances, government agencies maintain a monopoly over what really should be public information.  

The aim of this Open Data Challenge is to involve people in the review of laws and public policy by analysing open/publicly available data in innovative ways and to create data visualisations that help tell important stories in a more accessible way. We believe an online community from all parts of NSW and potentially Australia can make an important contribution to public policy through such an initiative.

In this specific circumstance, the aim is to achieve greater insight into the demographic profile of residential park residents, a geospatial understanding of residential parks and a data rich perspective on park operation.

Submissions and information provided as part of the Open Data Challenge will be presented to the NSW Press Gallery during debate on the legislation and posted on Jan’s website. All works will be fully attributed to authors/participants and we will tweet your contribution to our networks. This is a great opportunity to showcase your open data collection, design, analysis or programming skills and promote your work.

How to Participate

  1. Start by downloading the existing data resources on Jan’s website (see below) and review the suggested approaches, but feel free to think outside the square.
  2. Take a look at other open/public data collection and data visualisation projects for further ideas.
  3. Send your data visualisations, apps, designs or open data analysis work to jan.barham@parliament.nsw.gov.au with your full details and a brief explanation of how you put your work together. Please submit all work before Nov 21, 2013 for inclusion in the project.
  4. We will be using the twitter hashtag #nswdatachallenge to exchange ideas, have Q&A, provide updates on the progress of legislation and share project work.

Some suggested projects include:

  • Keyword analysis of Parliamentary Speeches, Ministerial Press Releases and Department of Fair Trading material on the legislation and historical amendments to the Residential Parks Act 1998.
  • GIS and location analysis involving plotting of residential parks and other location information such as crown land reserves, service mapping, house price rises by postcode or population movements for example.
  • Data visualisations, graphs or multimedia including images of caravan parks in NSW
  • Data analysis and graphics using NSW Government data, open source data or ABS data (ABS Table Builder) exploring resident and caravan park demographics. This might include using ABS data to examine demographics and parks communities.
  • Review and analysis of Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal data on Residential Parks cases.
  • Social media network analysis and visualisation of key stakeholders using programs such as Gelphi.

Want further information about the Open Data Challenge?

If you want to discuss your project/contribution with us or seek clarification on the type of work we want to encourage, please feel free to contact us at jan.barham@parliament.nsw.gov.au, tweet us at @janbarham, call us on (02) 9230 2204 or use the twitter hashtag #nswdatachallenge.

MATERIALS AND DATA SOURCES

Click here for the New South Wales Minister for Fair Trading’s 2nd Reading on the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Bill 2013.

Click here for the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Bill 2013 .

Click here for a breakdown by year of Residential Park matters taken on the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribubal (CTTT). Park and estate residents and managers can take disputes to the CTTT to resolve issues such as contract breaches, rent increases  or rental bonds to name a few. The data is taken from CTTT annual reports which can be accessed here.

Click here for a KML file which includes location information on parks taken from the NSW Residential Parks Register.To open the KML file use a GIS program or Google Earth which will plot the various park locations in NSW.

Click here for a excel spreadsheet of residential parks listed by Local Government Area (LGA). Included in the spreadsheet is LGA population, rate of park presence per population, Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA). Many more data sets could be added using Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) resources.

Submissions on the draft exposure Bill by key stakeholders – ARPRA (Affiliated Residential Park Residents Association NSW) and Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association.

Visit the NSW Open Data Site and search data by NSW Government Department

Image credit:

Above: Twofold Bay Beach Caravan Park CC-BY-NC-ND by KMJPhotography (TillyDog)

Front page: Terrigal Haven Caravan Park CC-BY-NC by Gostalgia: Local history from Gosford Library, from the collection of the late Doug and Margaret Parton of Toukley.

Greens NSW submission on the Draft Residential (Land Lease) Communities Bill

Following a review of residential parks legislation in 2011 and 2012, the NSW Government has proposed a new Bill to replace the existing Residential Parks Act 1998. The Greens NSW submission on the Draft Residential (Land Lease) Communities Bill raises concerns about some of the changes that are proposed, and highlights the importance of listening to the concerns of park residents, many of whom are older people on fixed incomes, whose homes are their major assets.

Stronger protections required for park residents

New legislation could expose owners, buyers and sellers of mobile or manufactured homes to financial risks, warns Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham.

The NSW Government has introduced legislation that will replace the existing Residential Parks Act, following a process of reviewing the existing laws and consultation on draft legislation.

“I remain concerned that some important issues raised by residents in submissions and letters to MPs haven’t been adequately addressed. For many residents who are retired this is about their primary asset and its value and security affects their future,” Ms Barham said.

“I recognise there are some positive initiatives proposed, including new rules of conduct and sanctions for operators and new disclosure requirements about the sale of homes. Unfortunately home owners could lose out in the new financial arrangements by paying a share of the value of their home to operators, levies for upgrades and rent increases.”

New provisions include ‘voluntary sharing arrangements,’ which allow operators to charge entry and exit fees as well as receiving an uncapped share of the price when a home owner sells their home.

“Voluntary sharing arrangements could see home owners signing over a portion of their home’s sale value to the park operator. These agreements could have a negative impact on costs and affordability across the entire sector. The choice for owners to enter into these agreements needs to be fully informed as to the long-term costs & benefits,” Ms Barham said.

“I’m concerned that the Bill allows operators to justify site fee increases based on projected increases in their costs or planned improvements to the park. These things might never eventuate, yet residents will already be paying, often stretching their financial limits. Another issue is the change of use of sites – it isn’t clear that owners are protected from their site being changed from long-term to short-term use, leaving them subject to termination or a loss of value when it came to the sale of the home.”

“In NSW there is a shortage of affordable housing and residential parks are for many not only cost effective but also provide a very important community particularly for many older persons The legislation should protect the rights and interests of these people,” Ms Barham concluded.

The Bill will be debated when Parliament resumes next week. Ms Barham has indicated she will pursue amendments that adequately protect vulnerable home owners and residents.

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