Calls have been made to convert vacant student accommodation into social housing. The signiﬁcant reduction of international students in Sydney due to COVID has created an opportunity to house the city’s vulnerable.
Both Canterbury-Bankstown and Inner West councils have made submissions to a NSW parliamentary inquiry into social housing about how they could open up empty student rooms to people without a place to stay. Hotels, motels, boarding houses and backpacker accommodation could also be considered being made available to those in need.
While supportive of “creative ways to utilise otherwise empty buildings to provide temporary housing”, in its submission to the inquiry, Shelter NSW said there was “no substitute for dramatically increasing the stock of social and affordable rental dwellings across NSW”. Shelter then called on the government to “dramatically increase the stock of social housing across NSW (build or acquire 5,000 additional social housing dwellings per year for 10 years)”.
Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW) also called for an investment in the construction of 5,000 social housing properties every year over the next decade. DVNSW went on to stress that older women are the fastest-growing cohort of homeless in Australia: “This is often as a result of DFV [domestic and family violence], pay inequity, little to no superannuation or savings, divorce, and time taken as unpaid carers.”
Meanwhile, in its submission to the social housing inquiry, the peak body for councils — Local Government NSW — called for minimum targets of 5 to 10 percent social and affordable housing across the state, and 25 percent for government-owned land which is developed. More than 50,000 people are currently on the NSW social housing waiting list, with wait times of up to a decade.