NSW Budget falls short

9 December 2020 | Posted In: #137 Summer 2020,

While community housing advocates have welcomed the NSW Government’s Budget allocation of $812 million for social housing across the state, as Christopher Kelly reports, they say much more investment is needed.

Terribly disappointing”, that was the reaction from Housing Trust CEO, Michele Adair, to the news that the NSW Government had made a Budget pledge of $812 million to fund the state’s social housing stock. “There appears to be little if any new money in the Treasurer’s announcement,” she said. This is a lost opportunity to deliver real jobs growth, economic stimulus and social outcomes for our community.”

It’s a view echoed by the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS). “The NSW Government missed a golden opportunity to support more people in desperate need,” said Joanna Quilty, NCOSS CEO. “Without urgent action and significant investment, what we will see is more individuals and families forced into precarious, inadequate and unsafe situations.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW also labelled the Budget a missed opportunity. “Access to stable, secure and affordable housing can transform people’s lives,” said CEO Jack de Groot. “Without a home it is incredibly difficult for people to find and maintain a job, take care of their health and make plans for the future.” Vinnies says at least 5,000 homes will need to be added to the social housing supply every year for the next decade to address the state’s chronic shortfall.

Meanwhile, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre tweeted its response to the Budget announcement: “The NSW Government’s planned investment in homelessness services and social housing is welcome news. However, it falls well short of the 5,000 new social housing homes per year we need to properly address the worsening homelessness crisis.” Shelter NSW tweeted: “$812 million is something, but it is not enough. Low-income earners struggling in the rental market and unemployment on the rise. Overall, it’s a B from us.”

Homelessness NSW was also less than impressed: “The 2020 NSW Budget has failed to invest anywhere near what is required for new social housing to end homelessness in dire economic times,” read a statement. According to the agency, homelessness in NSW has risen by 37 percent during the COVID pandemic, compared to a national increase of 14 percent. “If we can’t get significant investment in social housing now, when homes are the answer to beating the pandemic, ending homelessness, and providing jobs, then when will we see this?” said Katherine McKernan, Homelessness NSW CEO.

Furthermore, economic modelling commissioned by Homelessness NSW estimates there will be 9,000 new people experiencing homelessness in the state by June 2021. “Services are stretched at the seams and will continue to be without the housing needed to address people’s homelessness,” said McKernan.

Announcing the social housing package — which includes 1,200 new properties, an upgrade of 8,000 more, and $212 million set aside for new and upgraded Aboriginal housing — the NSW Treasurer, Dom Perrottet, said: “This Budget sets in motion cycles of security to lift future generations from disadvantage to opportunity.” However, although the social housing package has been declared the “biggest in NSW for 20 years”, the $812 million stands in stark contrast to the $5.3 billion earmarked by the Victorian Government for new social housing and the delivery of 9,300 additional social housing properties throughout Melbourne and regional areas of the state.

Accusing the NSW Government of having “abdicated responsibility for people at the bottom end of the market”, NSW Community Housing Industry Association chair, John McKenna, told ABC News: “We actually need a pipeline, and we need to know how much money is coming on an annual basis, not drip fed.” The association says the Budget investment may actually result in as few as 780 extra homes added to the state’s social housing stock. “There are 50,000 households on the waiting list for social housing,” said CEO Mark Degotardi. “The question that needs to be answered is how many of these people will be left in the cold by [the Budget] announcement?”

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