Friday, February 26, 2016

Social and Affordable Housing Fund - update

Some developments relating to the NSW Government's $1 billion Social and Affordable Housing Fund have occurred since an industry briefing was conducted in December 2015. 

Premier Mike Baird discussing the Social and Affordable Housing Fund

Regional allocation

Most notable is that the SAHF Project Team has provided information confirming that phase one of the initiative will aim to deliver approximately 30% of the 3000 dwellings to be provided in regional NSW. The Project Team defines 'regional areas' as all local government areas outside of Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Gosford, and Wyong. At the industry briefing, NSW Treasury Project Director Richard Mills had said the Government did not have a preference for proposals from metropolitan or regional areas. 

This allocation appears to be largely consistent with both tenant demand and the current dispersion of Social Housing stock in NSW. Though figures vary according to sub-region, waiting times for Social Housing are most often higher in Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast, and Wollongong than in other areas of NSW. Indeed most property types in most areas of Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast, and Wollongong have waiting times of 5-10 years or more. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of current Social Housing dwellings are situated in or near major metropolitan regions. Centre for Affordable Housing data provides that, in 2011, 93,945 of 114,602 Social Housing dwellings in NSW (i.e. 82%) were situated in the statistical districts of Sydney, Hunter, and Illawarra. The Sydney statistical district includes the Central Coast.

North Coast Community Housing Company CEO John McKenna has told The Daily Examiner that the SAHF's requirement that at least 200 social housing dwellings be delivered in any one proposal is prohibitive for providers operating in regional areas. He raised the prospect of his organisation forming a consortium with other Community Housing providers in order to submit a proposal satisfying the criterion. He also noted, "Unlike metropolitan areas, we wouldn't be able to build a 100-unit tower, so our proposal would have to be based around low density or medium-density opportunities".

Launch and Future Directions

On January 30, the Social and Affordable Housing Fund was 'officially launched' by Premier Mike Baird, Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, and Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard. Project partners NCOSS and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia also participated. However, it appears that the launch will not impact upon the administration of the project in any substantive way. Both the media release and the associated reporting neither built on nor contradicted anything provided in the industry briefing or elsewhere. 

Similarly, the fund is noted as forming part of the NSW Government's Social Housing strategy for the next decade in the recently released Future Directions paper (analysis of that document here). However, it is only mentioned in passing, and the paper provides no new information on the project. 

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