NSW abandons affordable housing policy
In an interesting move for the state of housing in New South Wales, Planning Minister Brad Hazzard recently abolished the previous Labor Government’s (somewhat controversial) Affordable Rental Housing Policy.
The policy which was designed to increase the supply of affordable housing for low-and middle-income earners in NSW, allowed private developers to circumvent local planning regulations if 20 per cent of the resulting development was reserved to be leased at below market rents. Consequently, “the policy imposed inappropriate development on suburbs,” Mr Hazard said in a statement.
As a result of Mr Hazzard’s decision no new development applications will be accepted under the old scheme as of 20 May 2011, while existing applications will be reviewed to ensure compliance with local planning laws and that developments are built in accordance with the existing character and landscape of neighbourhoods.
An Affordable Housing Taskforce will also be established to examine and suggest alternative ways to improve housing in NSW.
In announcing the decision to overturn the policy, Mr Hazzard acknowledged that the delivery of affordable housing was critical, but criticised the Labor planning laws as “just a backdoor deal for small-time developers to make a fast buck.”
The decision looks to be supported by many in the NSW housing industry. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Affordable housing policy dumped’ (May 20), the President of the Local Government Association, Keith Rhoades, welcomed the decision and said that the previous policy had been of concern to councils across NSW as it was circumventing local planning rules. He also said that it was important to “make sure the housing mix is right”.
In an article in the Herald Sun, ‘Calls for better affordable housing policy in New South Wales’ (May 20), the CEO of the Urban Taskforce Australia, Aaron Gadiel, was also positive about the move, saying that Labor’s policy was an incomplete solution to a big challenge facing Sydney.
Mr Gadiel went on to say that if the result of the decision was a new comprehensive policy that tackles the core issues for affordable housing in Sydney and NSW, then it would be a better outcome.
From my perspective, a positive I can glean from the Planning Minister’s decision is that the Government is looking to address the state of housing supply and affordability in NSW fairly quickly after its election. While there will be much work needed to address NSW development and planning laws, it seems that the process has started by way of decisive action.
While I imagine this process will take some time, I look forward to learning of Mr Hazzard’s proposed initiatives to tackle the issue.