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

Untitled

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

Greens call for NSW Close the Gap Targets

Aboriginal Land Rights rally in Hyde Park

“I’m calling on the Premier to establish clear NSW targets and report across all key areas of inequality so that his Government and future governments can be held accountable,” said Jan Barham, NSW Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs.

“Working with Aboriginal communities to ensure they have the services and opportunities required to address inequality in health and wellbeing is a responsibility of every Government, particularly in light of historical wrongdoings.

“Today’s release of the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap report shows the lack of national progress on addressing the disparity in life expectancy and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Ms Barham noted that there are significant areas of inequality and disadvantage that aren’t addressed by the national targets.

The Close the Gap Steering Committee’s report on Progress and Priorities 2016 recommends targets to address imprisonment rates and community safety, as well as the exacerbated disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal people with disability, education and employment.

“New South Wales should establish targets to address the full range of causes and indicators of Aboriginal disadvantage and inequality, including incarceration rates, rates of child abuse, neglect and removal, disability, mental health and suicide.

Ms Barham noted that the NSW Government had introduced some welcome initiatives in Aboriginal Affairs but that greater engagement with Aboriginal communities and self-determination in addressing needs was required.

“I’ve worked with this Government to support a range of initiatives that aim to provide opportunity and self-determination to Aboriginal communities, including through the new OCHRE strategy and ensuring Aboriginal land rights are respected and delivered.

“All politicians and parties must support giving priority to working with Aboriginal communities to address the ongoing inequality and lack of opportunity they experience, and I call on the Premier to make it a priority to close all of the gaps in New South Wales,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Background

Commonwealth must follow NSW’s lead on registered nurse staffing in nursing homes

NSW Greens spokesperson on Ageing Jan Barham has called on the public to support a Commonwealth Senate inquiry into the aged care workforce.

“Last year I chaired a NSW Upper House Inquiry into registered nurses in nursing homes, which received unanimous support for regulation requiring nursing homes to have at least one registered nurse on duty at all times” said Ms Barham.

“Now the Commonwealth Senate is inquiring into the aged care workforce, led by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert.[i] I encourage the Senate Committee to review staffing standards in nursing homes, which our inquiry found were inadequate to ensure elderly, frail nursing home residents had access to registered nurse care around the clock.”[ii]

“The NSW Inquiry received overwhelming evidence from experts in the field including the Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, Council on the Ageing and Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association that nursing homes need a registered nurse on duty at all times to ensure that residents receive high quality care.”

Ms Barham expressed concern about the lack of robust Commonwealth regulation governing staffing in an industry that is making record profits.

“Reports of some nursing homes recording a 40% surge in profits while face-to-face care hours dropped by 7% are cause for alarm. In 2014, research showed that residents received an average of just 5.2 hours of care from a registered nurse per fortnight.”[iii]

“We know that many nursing homes have replaced registered nurses with lower-skilled Assistants in Nursing and care workers even though resident care need is the highest it has ever been. This is placing residents at risk in cases where an emergency arises or the particular needs of high care residents are reliant on registered nurse care and supervision.”

Ms Barham said that while the NSW Inquiry found that nursing homes caring for high needs residents must have a registered nurse on duty at all times, exemptions could apply to small remote and rural nursing homes where it’s difficult to attract registered nurses.

“Some nursing home operators in remote and rural areas told our inquiry that it would be difficult to comply with a 24/7 registered nurse requirement. That’s why we recommended there be an exemption clause, which recognises the unique challenges facing such facilities.”

“But our inquiry was clear: Government must ensure nursing homes caring for high-needs residents have a registered nurse on duty 24/7 in the interests of resident safety.”

Submissions to the Commonwealth Senate inquiry close 4 March 2016.

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

Jan-Barham. RN 247 CAMPAIGN

Background

[i] Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into the Future of Australia’s Aged Care Sector Workforce http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Aged_Care_Workforce

[ii] Nursing homes are largely regulated by the Commonwealth under the Aged Care Act 1997. The Act does not require nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty at all times. NSW mandates under the Public Health Act 2010 that nursing homes formerly known as ‘high care’ facilities be staffed by a registered nurse 24/7. This State requirement came under review after changes to the Aged Care Act removed the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ care facilities, thus rendering the NSW requirement inoperable. The NSW Government is still reviewing its registered nurse requirement under the Public Health Act.

[iii] Paddy Manning ‘Profits rise, quality called into question in aged-care industry’ Crikey 15 January 2015, http://www.crikey.com.au/2015/01/15/profits-rise-quality-called-into-question-in-aged-care-industry/ & Tom Allard ‘Nursing home profits soar as patient care declines’ Sydney Morning Herald 1 January 2016 http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/nursing-home-profits-soar-as-patient-care-declines-20151224-glupug.html

NSW Legislative Council inquiry into registered nurses in New South Wales nursing homes: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/D7A6228FCC493975CA257E6F0024A87D

Getaboutable: A great boost for accessible tourism

Jan Barham, NSW Greens spokesperson for Disability and Tourism has applauded Getaboutable, a website developed in Australia that provides information about accessible tourism for people with a disability.

Getaboutable lists accommodation, transport and entertainment options that are accessible for people with mobility impairments, vision impairments or hearing loss.

“This is a fantastic example of a tool that promotes accessible tourism and I encourage businesses that are accessible to list their information on the site so that it can grow”, said Ms Barham.

“If tourism destinations aren’t accessible or haven’t looked at this sector, then now is the time to act. This is particularly important for regional areas, where accessibility can give them that all important point of difference.”

Ms Barham said that the tourism industry must recognise that accessible tourism is not only good for the community; it’s also good for business.

“Almost one if five people in Australia have a disability. The National Disability Insurance Scheme will see a lot more people with disability securing their independence and the ability to travel. The tourism industry must get on board with accessible tourism or risk losing a substantial customer base.”

“Getaboutable gives businesses an excellent opportunity to reach out to people with a disability both in Australia and internationally, while providing much needed information about accessibility. I look forward to its success and congratulate the instigator, Yasmine Gray from Canberra for this innovation.”

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

 

  • Getaboutable: http://getaboutable.com/
  • Research suggests that accessible tourism contributes $4.8 billion to the Australian economy, but this could be $8.7 billion if latent demand was met.[1]
  • In NSW, 30% of the population is aged 65 and over or has a disability.[2]

[1] Darcy, S. (2010) ‘Economic Contribution of Accessible Tourism’ Accessible Tourism Research http://accessibletourismresearch.blogspot.com.au/2010/01/economic-contribution-of-accessible.html

[2] ABS (2013) Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of findings, 2012 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4430.02012?OpenDocument

Greens MPs call for protection of North Coast wetlands under threat on World Wetlands Day

Cobaki wetlands

Greens NSW MP and Environment Spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC and North Coast Greens MP, Jan Barham, have today called on the Baird Government to focus on protecting wetlands in New South Wales, including calling for Ramsar protection for the Cobaki Catchment on the North Coast.

World Wetlands Day commemorates the signing of the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation of wetlands.

Dr Faruqi said:

“Wetlands play a vital role in a healthy environment, including for all the waterways that criss-cross the state. Unfortunately, we are losing wetlands across the state and with it their rich biodiversity.

“This World Wetlands Day, I am calling on the NSW Premier to get serious about protecting our vital wetlands and give them the protection they deserve, including from the threats of fossil fuel mining, inappropriate development and pollution” she stated.

North Coast Greens MP, Jan Barham, said:

“The Cobaki catchment is a world class ecological and cultural treasure that is deserving of protection. As the popularity and pressures on this beautiful and important area grow, there is a greater need to protect and preserve this significant landscape.

“I will be presenting a motion to the Parliament when it resumes for the nomination by the NSW Government of the Cobaki Broadwater Catchment for Ramsar Convention protection.

“The NSW Government has an important role in the nomination of sites that meet the criteria and on World Wetlands Day I am pleased that the Greens are recognising and celebrating the natural and cultural environment and seeking protection of this national treasure” Ms Barham concluded.

Media Contact:

Matt Hilton for Mehreen Faruqi: 0423 106 247 / (02) 9230 2625.
Jan Barham: 0447 853 891

Call for Inquiry – NSW public land being used for airport runway expansion

Lindy Smith, Dawn Walker, Jan Barham MLC, Cr Gary Bagnall and Mayor Katie Milne visit the Crown Reserve affected by Gold Coast airport expansion

The Greens have expressed shock and called for a transparent and public inquiry regarding the approval of an Instrument Landing System (ILS) at the Gold Coast Airport.

Greens candidate for Richmond, Dawn Walker, said: “I am concerned to see that a runway extension has been written into the lease granted to the airport for the NSW Crown Reserve at West Tweed.

“This lease was signed between the Government and the airport without public consultation and I stand with the community in asking for the protection of public land for recreation and environmental conservation, not given away on our behalf to private interests.”

Greens MP and Crown Lands spokesperson, Jan Barham MLC, said: “The approval of the Instrument Landing System (ILS ) by the federal government is a sleight of hand that will impact dramatically on protection of NSW crown land and the wellbeing of many people in the Tweed and the Gold Coast. This process is one of deception.

“The installation of an ILS is an act of subterfuge that is all about the twice defeated plans for a runway extension. The airport wants to extend the runway to allow larger and louder aircraft such as the Airbus A340 to fly over the Tweed.

“The increased aircraft traffic will come at the cost of precious public lands, including the significant Cobaki wetlands with salt marsh and fish breeding habitat destroyed. The Crown Land is reserved for ‘public recreation’ not private interest.

“I have asked questions in Parliament about how the privately owned Gold Coast Airport gained access to the lease rights over NSW Crown Land.

“The extension proposal had twice been rejected because of the impact on the Crown Land which will include wholesale clearing of public land and protected vegetation and habitat. But with the approval for the ILS by the federal government, no state laws apply and no further approval is needed by the state Minister for Crown Lands, Niall Blair.

“The NSW Government has not revealed the date of the transfer of the land to enable the airport to make the application to the Commonwealth. Concerns have been raised as to whether the lease was valid at the time of its approval. The NSW Government passed laws that allowed inconsistent land uses to be validated but it appears the lease was given one month before the legislation was introduced to Parliament.

“Local residents including the Tweed Heads Residents and Ratepayers Association are demanding an inquiry into how this public land could be transferred to a private entity to be destroyed.

“I will take concerns of the community and the Richmond Greens candidate to the Parliament and will ask further questions and present a proposal for an inquiry. It may also be that this is not an isolated issue and that needs to be investigated. The public has a right to know that public land is being managed in the public interest, not to enrich private interests,” concluded Ms Barham.

For comment:
Jan Barham MLC 0447853891
Dawn Walker, Greens federal candidate for Richmond 0411 404 588

See attachment for background information.

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

Climate Action NSW

Baby turtles in the sand

Governments are failing our community on climate change. It’s essential that we care for the wellbeing of future generations and protect our communities and the environment. If we don’t address global warming and its impact on our climate, we’ll leave an unsafe environment and a compromised quality of life as consequences of our inaction.

The Greens are committed to strong action on climate change. We need communities, businesses and all levels of government – federal, state and local – to play their part. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would lock in mandatory targets to ensure NSW achieves net zero emissions by 2040, require all government agencies to plan for how we will reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, and allow court proceedings to hold the government accountable for decisions that undermine climate action.

You can lend your support by visiting the Climate Action NSW website and pledging your Commitment to Climate Action.

People with disability win their right to transport independence in NSW

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme rally in Macquarie Street

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Disability has applauded the NSW Government’s decision to double the subsidy available to people with disability to help them cover the cost of taxi transport.

“This is welcome news for people with disability in NSW who rely on taxis for transport. It will provide people with the financial assistance needed to be independent in their local communities”, said Ms Barham.

The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme provides assistance of 50% of the taxi fare up to a maximum of $30 for people with a disability who cannot access public transport. The NSW Government has announced it will increase the cap to $60 and also boost incentives to put more wheelchair accessible taxis on the road.”

“People with disability have campaigned for years to have this subsidy increased, which has been capped at $30 since 1999.”

“In 2013, I put forward a motion calling for an increase to the subsidy, which was supported by the NSW Legislative Council.”

“Last year, I hosted a forum in Parliament to hear from people with a disability who relied on taxis for transport. The message was clear: the subsidy no longer reflected the real cost of using taxis. The high out-of-pocket costs incurred by people who have no other transport option but taxis was preventing them from engaging in employment, education and maintaining their social connections.”

“This increase is especially important for people in regional NSW who often have little or no access to public transport and often pay large taxi fares because of long travel distances.”

The subsidy increase was announced as part of the NSW Government’s response to the Point to Point Transport Taskforce report on taxis, hire cars and ridesharing in NSW.

“I call on the NSW Government to index the subsidy by CPI annually, so that we don’t, once again, see the subsidy eroded over time. I also call on the Government to announce a start date for the increased subsidy to give people with disability certainty and clarity, particularly in light of the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”

“I congratulate all those who have campaigned to have the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme increased.”

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

Government’s response to the Point to Point Transport Taskforce

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme

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