NSW Budget: Government doesn’t deliver on affordable housing despite stamp duty windfall

The Greens have criticised the NSW Government for delivering a 2015-16 Budget that benefits from a boom in stamp duty revenue yet fails to do enough to ensure the availability of affordable housing across Sydney and the state.

Jan Barham, Greens NSW Housing spokesperson said:

“The healthy position of the NSW Budget rests on the skyrocketing rate of stamp duty revenue, which is driven by the red hot property market in Sydney and other parts of the state. Even with the forecast ‘moderation’ of residential stamp duty next year, the Government’s income from houses changing hands is expected to rise by another 11.8 percent in the coming year.

“Housing affordability pressures are a continuing challenge for people in New South Wales. We need a whole-of-government approach to fix it, and sadly the Budget doesn’t show the willingness to ensure that people will find affordable, appropriate homes where they want to live and work.

“Although there is some new investment in social housing and boosting general supply, there is little sign of a plan to deliver affordable homes for people on low and moderate incomes in the areas where they’re desperately needed.

“The NSW housing and homelessness peak bodies have rejected claims that increasing supply will solve the housing affordability crisis. They recognise that we need tax reform, along with public investment and private incentives to deliver affordable housing.”

Jenny Leong, Greens MP for Newtown and Rental Housing spokesperson, said:

“This Budget has no signs of relief for people struggling to pay rents in Sydney and across NSW. Rents in some parts of Sydney have almost doubled in the past decade. Wages clearly haven’t. People in NSW are increasingly suffering from housing stress.

“The Government’s own ‘Mapping the Budget’ tool shows that there are only four affordable housing projects funded in the City of Sydney, and none in the surrounding local government areas including Marrickville and Leichhardt.

“Selling off public housing and failing to protect long-term renters is not a long-term solution to housing affordability in NSW.”

For Further Comment:
Jan Barham – 0447 853 891
Jenny Leong – 0433 753 376

Background:

Joint statement by housing and homelessness peaks on affordable housing

NSW Budget fails to deliver a genuine boost to early support for at-risk families

The NSW Government’s 2015-16 Budget has not delivered the much-needed investment in support for vulnerable families to protect children and prevent child removal, says Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services and Housing.

“The Budget papers show that the Government still isn’t taking sufficient action to address the major challenges facing disadvantaged and vulnerable people in this state,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that the Family and Community Services budget didn’t deliver a genuine boost to early intervention services, while the number of children and young people placed in out-of-home care has continued to rise higher than forecast.

“The Government should take no pride in its increase to the out-of-home care budget, which was required because the number of children in care has risen sharply with nearly 20,000 children and young people in care,” Ms Barham said.

“Although adequate funding of out-of-home care and support for foster carers is essential, the Government needs to put more investment into supporting at-risk families before they reach the point where child removal becomes necessary.

“The Budget has again failed to deliver a major boost to the services that would target at-risk families and prevent abuse and neglect.

“The Budget Papers have clouded the Family and Community Services funding by transferring the Office of Communities and their general community grants across from the Education cluster.

“It appears that the Government has opted for smoke and mirrors rather than delivering a genuine boost to the targeted programs that would help to keep children safe at home, and would reduce the pressure on the child protection and out-of-home care systems.”

Ms Barham warned that the Government’s focus on open adoption would only assist a small number of children in care and that a broader emphasis on building a system that supported all children and families was required.

“Children and young people who enter the out-of-home care system often face disadvantage and risk as they transition into adulthood. Many children face homelessness, involvement in the justice system and other problems when they leave care. More needs to be done to support them at that vulnerable time.

“The Government must do more to prevent children entering into the system, and to ensure that all children who are unable to be restored to their families have the opportunity and support to make a successful transition into independent adulthood,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Save Byron’s Beaches

Byron Councils support for construction of a rockwall at Belongil Beach will increase erosion, reduce public safety and amenity, affect the tourism industry and set a terrible precedent for the NSW coastline. Tamara Smith MP, the Member for Ballina, Byron’s Greens councillors and I are working with our community to oppose it. You can help us.

Save Byron's Beaches sticker

Click here to request stickers and show your support.

We’re collecting signatures on petitions to be tabled in both houses of Parliament. Download them, collect signatures and send them in:

Watch my speech on the history of Byron Bay’s coastal management, delivered on Thursday 4th June in the NSW Legislative Council:

Tweed Crown Land at risk from potential Gold Coast Airport expansion

North Coast Greens MP and Crown Lands spokesperson Jan Barham has raised concerns about the transfer of a Tweed Crown Reserve that appears to be left with inadequate safeguards against destruction to allow an extension of the Gold Coast Airport runway.

“I’ve asked several questions in Parliament during the past week regarding a NSW Crown Reserve that has been transferred to Gold Coast Airport,” Ms Barham said.

“I’m concerned that the NSW Government has exposed the land to inadequate protection from the impact of development work at the site, including the possible extension of the runway.

“Last week when the Minister for Lands answered my question about the lack of consultation and safeguards before the lease was transferred, he referred to the current public consultation about the proposed installation of an Instrument Landing System and said there would be a subsequent approval process.

“But the airport’s own Preliminary Draft Major Development Plan makes clear that the approval process only relates to work being undertaken on the Commonwealth airport land, not the NSW Crown Reserve.

“This week I asked whether there will be any environmental planning and approval process for any work being conducted on the NSW Crown land, but the Minister wasn’t able to provide any assurance.

Ms Barham warned that the transfer of the Crown Reserve appeared to be part of an overall plan by the airport for extension of the runway that would involve the clearing of significant lands.

“It appears that the Minister is unaware of the plans of the airport to seek an extension of the runway that would involve the destruction of important ecological areas and impact on residents’ amenity,” Ms Barham said.

“In November 2013, Gold Coast Airport wrote to the then Planning Minister Brad Hazzard and stated that ‘In the longer term, the securing of the additional land area for the airport will enable construction of an extension to the runway.’

“The community should be very concerned that the current proposal opens the door for the airport to carry out major work toward a runway extension and airport expansion, without adequate NSW Government oversight of environmental protection and development approval on Crown land,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

NDIS Scorecard highlights that NSW Government must rethink service withdrawal and ensure independent advocacy

The results from a Citizens’ Jury evaluation of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) progress are a welcome endorsement of the potential of the scheme to improve opportunity and services for people with disability but highlight key risks that the NSW Government must address, warns Jan Barham MLC, the Greens NSW Disability spokesperson.

“The NDIS Scorecard gives us an early indication of how the implementation of the NDIS implementation is progressing, based on a citizens’ jury process that was inclusive of people with disability as jurors and participant witnesses,” Ms Barham said.

“I congratulate People with Disability Australia (PWDA) who led the process and welcome the finding that the NDIS is providing a path for improved quality of life. The jury’s unanimous findings reinforce the intent and potential of the NDIS. The scorecard is a reminder to all governments and all parties that full support for the successful implementation and rollout of the NDIS is essential.”

Ms Barham noted two specific concerns highlighted by the citizen jury’s report relating to withdrawal of state and territory government services and the importance of access to independent advocacy.

“The scorecard notes that the withdrawal of state and territory government services for people with disability has left a gap in service availability. The NSW Government must take note of this warning and reconsider their unwillingness to guarantee that state government services will remain available to people who want or need to access them.

“The COAG Disability Reform Council is still developing a strategy to ensure a sustainable market that provides choice in service provision and an adequate disability service workforce. The NSW Government’s plan to transfer all disability services to the non-government sector should not proceed without a solid strategy in place to ensure nobody will be left without access and choice of quality support services.

“The recommendations also point to the need for NDIS participants to have access to independent support, advice and advocacy as they go through the process of planning and service choice. Advocacy is another area where a great deal of uncertainty remains, as it is not funded within the NDIS itself and the Disability Reform Council doesn’t expect to finalise a review of the National Disability Advocacy Framework until the end of this year.

“I’m especially concerned by reports that residents of the Stockton Centre, one of the remaining residential institutions in NSW that is in the process of planning for closure, could not be accessed as part of this process by an advocate witness. I’ve asked questions to the Minister about the process for ensuring Stockton residents’ views and rights are addressed previously, including access to advocates, and I will continue to raise concerns about these issues. The NDIS must deliver on its promise of inclusiveness and improved outcomes for all participants, especially those who are already in the most vulnerable circumstances,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

NDIS Scorecard – PWDA media release and link to full report

Question re: disability advocacy for Stockton residents, 20 November 2014

Anglicare snapshot shows that it’s time for urgent action on housing affordability crisis

An important new Rental Affordability Snapshot from Anglicare highlights the need for broad reforms to housing policy and tenancy laws to address the crisis in the state’s housing sector, warn the Greens.

Jenny Leong, Greens MP for Newtown and Rental Housing spokesperson, said:

“The Greens have a plan for improving the rights of renters in Sydney to ease rental stress and provide people who are renting with more security.

“Rent increases in Sydney are out of control. The average cost to rent a two bedroom apartment or house in Redfern has jumped from $350 to a staggering $650 a week in the last ten years.

“Over the past months I have been speaking with many residents in the inner city and inner west who are really concerned about astronomical rents and ever-increasing insecurity.

“The Greens will introduce legislation into NSW Parliament to protect renters’ rights, including putting an end to ‘no grounds’ evictions and limiting rent increases. We must put in place provisions to protect those most vulnerable from dodgy landlords and housing insecurity.

“If our initiatives had been in place over the last 10 years, average rents would have risen just 38 per cent, not the 77 per cent we’ve actually seen. Greens initiatives would have seen a saving $126 a week for renters in a 2 bedroom house.

“The Greens will work with organisations like Anglicare to advocate and campaign for effective improvements to housing and tenancy legislation in NSW,” Ms Leong said.

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Housing and Homelessness, said:

“Last year the Parliamentary housing inquiry I initiated delivered 41 recommendations to improve social and affordable housing in NSW, which were welcomed by many in the housing and social service sectors as a blueprint to address the housing crisis.

“The Government chose to ignore the inquiry’s recommendations, hiding behind the caretaker provisions to avoid responding when the report had been available for six months. The Government must respond to the inquiry recommendations that were based on detailed evidence from experts in the sector.

“Right now, the Government could support the community housing sector to boost social housing by giving certainty about title transfers. They could implement planning measures to ensure local governments can ensure affordable housing is included in new housing developments.

Ms Barham also called on the NSW Government to lock in key housing partnerships with the federal government and ensure the impacts of federal tax policy on housing affordability are considered.

“The State Government needs to act quickly to commit funding and secure federal commitments to allocate funding for long-term housing programs, including the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and the National Affordable Housing Agreement.

“The NSW Government must highlight the impact of federal tax policy in driving housing costs to unaffordable levels. They need to push for a federal discussion of reforms to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount to reduce price pressures and deliver additional housing,” Ms Barham concluded.

Contacts:

  • Jan Barham: 0447 853 891
  • Jenny Leong: 0433 753 376 (Mark Riboldi)

Background:

Greens call for review of whether tax breaks are delivering housing supply

The Greens’ spokesperson on Housing, Tourism and the North Coast, Jan Barham MLC, has called for a review of tax concessions for investment properties and whether they are in fact improving the availability of rental housing stock.

“As a North Coast resident I am concerned at the evidence of 900 homes in both the Byron and Tweed local government areas being used for tourism purposes,” said Ms Barham.

“It is possible that many of these properties are being claimed as investment properties and despite the use being unapproved at this time, there hasn’t been an examination of whether the Federal Government’s negative gearing and capital gains tax provisions are supporting a loss of housing stock and the erosion of community.”

For many years the Byron Shire community has raised concerns about the impact of holiday letting on the availability and affordability of housing in the shire. Recently the Tweed council staff presented a report to alert council to the use of dwellings in that shire for tourism rather than the approved permanent residential use.

“The Land and Environment Court decision in 2013 about a case in Gosford made it very clear that the use for tourism accommodation of approved dwellings in residential areas was prohibited. Now councils have to reconcile this decision with what is happening in each council area.

“The Federal Government’s tax discussion paper, which was released earlier this week, shows that the total tax deductions claimed for investment properties have grown and are now larger than the total rental income earned by Australian property owners.

“If this substantial tax break is being used on the North Coast for commercial gain by turning residential properties into tourist accommodation, it is actually working against the desired outcome of providing more rental housing stock.

“Some form of review and regulation is needed to ensure that generous bonus to property investors delivers some form of social benefit,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Incoming Government must support a fairer and more caring society

Jan Barham, the Greens’ spokesperson for the North Coast, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, Ageing, Disabilty and Community Services, has called on the re-elected Coalition Government to adopt a more caring and strategic approach with a priority focus on housing and community services for areas of high vulnerability and disadvantage such as the North Coast.

“The high levels of people who are unemployed, aged, have a disability and receiving income and parenting support payments is an indication of the disadvantage and vulnerability in our region. The risk is that if priorities don’t change with the next government we will see a continuation of vulnerability that can result in intergenerational disadvantage. Without changes there could be more people living in poverty and excluded from full participation in society,” said Ms Barham.

“There must be a focus on investing in communities to deliver fairness and improved opportunity to participate in all aspects of life. It’s time to look at the needs of this community and prepare for the future, with a more caring and compassionate approach.

“In this election campaign the Greens prioritised a boost in social housing with funding of $4.5 billion to build 20,000 homes over 4 years. With some of the longest waiting lists in NSW, there should be a significant increase on the north coast. The lack of affordable housing is threatening the health and wellbeing of the community and putting many at risk of homelessness, especially the young, the elderly and Aboriginal community members.

“Many older people living in caravan parks are facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction, with no other options available. NSW needs new legislation to provide the security and affordability required for our valued older citizens living in parks and villages.”

The Greens are also calling for secondary dwellings grants to assist property owners to build for the aged and disabled.

“We need to deliver appropriately designed and dedicated housing to allow people to stay living in community rather than being forced to move away from their neighbours and families. Funding support at a local level would grow the stock of housing needed and retain community cohesion,” said Ms Barham.

Ms Barham noted that with an ageing population, the NDIS, domestic violence, child protection concerns and a significant Aboriginal population, the region needs additional workers in the community services area to address and prevent risk for the most vulnerable in our community.

“Some of the disadvantage experienced in the region could be overcome with a greater investment in early intervention services and additional workers. The community service sector is in need of additional staff and the Greens are calling for a training financial assistance scheme to encourage and support more people entering the caring workforce. The need for increased Aboriginal specialist services is crucial and would create much needed employment opportunities as well as culturally appropriate services,” said Ms Barham.

Taxis are the main form of transport for some residents who have significant disabilities to allow them to access medical, health and work opportunities.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has not been increased for 16 years and this is grossly unfair. An increase in this vital service would benefit inclusion for those who are otherwise disadvantaged, especially in the regions,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also warned that recent funding cuts by the Federal Government to parent and youth services have shown a lack of foresight and investment in the future, which the NSW Government must work to rectify.

“The Greens call on the State Government to lobby against the Federal Government funding cuts to important programs that support young people at risk and that provide skills for the transition to adulthood and independent living, and to make up for any shortfall in federal funding as they have done for pensioner concessions. The funding cuts to important programs that support new parents are a dangerous move that puts child welfare at risk, and which will end up creating additional social harms and put pressure on state services in child protection, juvenile justice and other sectors,” said Ms Barham.

“It’s time to overcome the history of the major parties ignoring the needs of the regions. While North Coast seats were a major focus in this election and coal seam gas was an especially crucial issue, the wellbeing of North Coast communities has been off the radar for too long.

“Without a commitment to social infrastructure investment for the region, there will be continuing disadvantage. The true test of a progressive society is how well we care for those in need and plan for the future wellbeing of all of our residents.

“The Greens are committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our society. I will be focusing on these issues when Parliament resumes, hopefully with two new North Coast Greens members in the Legislative Assembly to echo the focus for the region’s communities,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Planning for a more caring community

  1. Investment in social housing – announced $4.5 billion to deliver 20,000 new homes in NSW over 4 years
  2. Financial grants for the delivery of appropriately designed secondary dwellings for older and disabled people – $20,000 per property
  3. Care Workforce Strategy – grants to assist people in training in the community sector – aged, disability and child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  4. Residential Parks protection – legislation to secure the rights of people living in residential parks against high fees and eviction
  5. Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme – increase funding that has been stagnant for 16 years
  6. Youth programs – return funding to crucial youth programs that have been cut by federal government eg. Links to Learning, Youth Connections and REALskills – approx. $700,000 for region

NSW must match federal homelessness funding and target services to meet urgent needs

The Greens have called on all parties in NSW to commit to matching the Federal Government’s two-year additional funding allocation to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and to ensure the funds will be allocated to address areas of greatest need and fill service gaps resulting from last year’s reforms to the homelessness sector.

Jan Barham, the Greens’ Housing and Homelessness spokesperson, said: “Homelessness is a priority issue that deserves more than a 2 year continuation of funding.

“Addressing and preventing homelessness needs a 10 year cooperative plan across all levels of government, but the Federal Government’s commitment at least provides some continuity for a sector that was facing uncertainty about the future of many services.

“We now need urgent clarification as to whether the next NSW Government will match the funds as required in the partnership model and where those funds will be spent.

“We cannot have a repeat of the previous one-year extension, when it took until early February 2015 for the NSW and Federal Governments to announce their plan for the allocation of funds for a financial year that had begun in July of 2014.

“A review of the state government’s allocation model must identify areas of need and a focus on regions and populations where there are gaps in services,” said Ms Barham.

“Last year we saw the chaotic process with the Going Home, Staying Home funding allocations that saw dramatic changes to service provision for homelessness, including the loss of services and closure of some refuges. What has resulted is an overall loss of funding to some regions such as the far north coast, with the loss of some $2.5million that provided key homelessness services to support people which were seen as highly effective, including the Accommodation Project and the Tenancy Support program.”

“The Federal Government’s announcement is an opportunity for NSW to see commitments to address the problems and challenges that have arisen. We need targeted investment in programs that support some of the most vulnerable people including those who are fleeing family violence, young people and many of our older community members.

“As well as addressing the crisis of homelessness, we need all parties to allocate government funding to boosting the availability of housing and relieving housing affordability pressures. The Greens have detailed our $20billion infrastructure package, which includes a $4.5billion investment to deliver 20,000 social and affordable housing properties over two years.

“The Greens have continued to press the NSW and Federal governments to work out a long-term, effective agreement to provide certainty for the homelessness sector and develop the services and capacity required to begin reducing the numbers of people who are facing homelessness.

“All parties should immediately commit to implement the two-year funding extension and to urgently review and improve the funding allocation to ensure the best possible delivery of homelessness services to the vulnerable people who need support,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Greens announce Aboriginal Policy Initiative

On National Close the Gap Day, Greens MP and Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Jan Barham has announced the Greens’ initiatives to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in NSW.

“The Greens policy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People acknowledges the failings of Government to address the devastating conditions in many areas for Aboriginal people,” said Ms Barham.

Photo of Aboriginal people with quote about Aboriginal policy

Key elements of the policy include:

  • a NSW Premier’s report on outcomes for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples,
  • a $250 million investment in Aboriginal housing to deliver around 1,000 homes,
  • a plan and protocols to clear the backlog of 26,000 Aboriginal land claims,
  • strategies for Aboriginal employment & training, including child welfare & tourism,
  • lowering the eligibility age for the Seniors Card to 45 years for Aboriginal people, and
  • a NSW Parliamentary inquiry into reparations for the Stolen Generations

Ms Barham said: “NSW can take the lead and prepare a state based annual report on a broader set of Closing the Gap indicators to ensure that the funding and policies that are in place are delivering outcomes.”

Last year Greens MLC Jan Barham presented a motion to the Parliament for the establishment of an inquiry into Stolen Generations reparations. In Tasmania, legislation has been enacted to provide for compensation and there is a similar bill before the South Australian Parliament.

“The history of removal of Aboriginal people from their families and country in NSW still affects the lives of many, and an inquiry to report and consider appropriate reparations could deliver a framework for genuine redress.”

“The health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is of major concern with life expectancy identified as between 10 and 17 years less than the general population. The Greens have called for eligibility to the NSW Seniors Card to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the age of 45 years, to enable earlier opportunities for access to health and transport services.

“The health and wellbeing of people is determined strongly by their ability to access safe and stable housing. The Greens have acknowledged that there needs to be a major injection of funding to facilitate more housing and reduce the increasing issue of homelessness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Contact: Jan Barham – 0447 853 891

Media release [PDF]

The Greens NSW Aboriginal Policy Initiative

Greens Parliamentary Motions and Stolen Generations Inquiry Proposed Terms of Reference

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