The changing face of affordable housing in Sydney


I have been working as a property economist in the social and affordable housing field for over 25 years. I have, with my planning colleagues and friends in government, pioneered many initiatives including the introduction of inclusionary zoning in CityWest, Green Square and Waverley: mechanisms for bonus FSR for affordable housing; and working on the first joint venture between a community housing provider and the private sector to deliver a mixed tenure development in O’Connor ACT. The outcome of these efforts has been an incremental increase in affordable housing stock and a public awareness of this growing need. That said, until recently one could easily be sceptical that these efforts will never fulfil demand. For example, the housing affordability gap continues to grow wider.

I believe now, however, more optimism is warranted thanks to the leadership and encouragement of Minister Brad Hazzard firstly as the Planning Minister in coordinating planning reform and currently as the Minister for Social Housing. He has empowered the Land and Housing Corporation, with its Communities Plus program, and the Department of Family and Community Services, through the innovative Social and Affordable Housing Fund, to contribute to the significant expansion of the community housing sector. These initiatives are game changing; they have created the opportunity for the community housing sector to attract private equity, leverage redevelopment with modest debt levels, substantially grow their portfolios, provide better integrated tenancy services unlock underutilised institutional land, and benefit from Commonwealth Rental assistance. Overall these initiatives generate more social and affordable housing for our tax dollars.

Another benefit of the Communities Plus programme is the urban transformation it is sponsoring, especially in areas of need. The results include better built outcomes, economic stimulus to local economies, breaking down spatial and social isolation, and better utilisation of existing services. Increased density means greater stimulus for new schools and new transport and rail investment. More generally, it is stimulating the broader State economy with increased housing starts, investment in infrastructure and more equitable rental options.

Particularly encouraging is an increasing whole-of-government approach to these issues. The Greater Sydney Commission, Department of Planning and Environment, Urban Growth NSW, and many Local Governments all promote new planning tools to sponsor affordable housing throughout Greater Sydney.

It is also clear that the Community Housing Sector has seized the opportunities that these policy initiatives provided and is now demonstrating great flair and maturity in how it meets the ever growing need for affordable housing.

Thanks in part to the success of campaigns by advocacy groups, such as the Committee for Sydney, affordable housing is now a significant issue for all participants in the housing sector to address. The success of this advocacy and the growth of the Community Housing sector can be measured by the extent to which housing affordability is now an issue that is finally attracting the attention of peak housing industry bodies. Talk is now moving to action.

I thank the Committee of Sydney too for their tireless advocacy and this platform they have created to showcase CHP and government innovations and achievements in social and affordable housing delivery. May you all continue to learn, adapt and prosper from these innovations and investments for generations to come.

Martin Hill

Director/Founder, HillPDA

Read full report