Housing crisis reaching critical point, says councils

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NSW councils fear the state’s housing crisis is hitting a critical point, with surging the cost of living leaving more people at risk of homelessness.

The rising cost of living and the impacts of natural disasters when combined with mounting rent prices and historic low vacancy rates is seeing a growing section of the community not just excluded from the buyer’s market but increasingly locked out of suitable renting options.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Darriea Turley AM says that the council level of government is witnessing up-close the impacts of these conditions.

“Housing affordability is arguably the most pressing issue right now affecting communities across the state. No one is more aware of the burdens of the rising cost of housing in NSW than our 128 councils and their mayors,” said Turley.

According to Turley, residents across NSW are distressed when having to face paying for some of the world’s most expensive property prices on top of other pressures in the current environment.

“Many people, particularly young adults in our communities, are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the housing market, with home ownership continuing to decline rapidly. The housing affordability crisis we are seeing right now is a dire situation.”

In January, the Productivity Commission warned that a significant number of Australians are being pushed to the brink of poverty and homelessness thanks to the explosion in rents and the dwindling supply of social housing.

While Domain’s latest annual First Home Buyers Report revealed that the cost of living and house prices combined with stagnant wage growth means first home buyers in Sydney need to save for more than eight years for an entry-priced house deposit.

At the same time over 40% of voters in most Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne electorates are reportedly facing rent and mortgage stress.

NSW has an estimated shortfall of more than 200,000 social and affordable housing dwellings, with COVID-19, bushfires and flood only adding people to waitlists for such housing.

“The recent floods have wiped out thousands of homes in the Northern Rivers of NSW and this crisis has been compounded by years of state and federal government inaction, resulting in a critical lack of social and affordable housing,” said Turley.

These severe weather events have also placed seasonal and visitor accommodation options under pressure, adding the challenge of attracting staff when there are no housing options.

“People are sleeping in cars, caravan parks are overflowing, and we see these same pressures impacting families and communities right across NSW,” said Turley.

Turley notes that councils are looking to work with the state and federal government to arrive at solutions to this crisis, while investment into affordable and social housing continues to be neglected.

“Councils can only play one part and without a strong partnership approach to the housing affordability crisis, governments will continue to propose band-aid solutions that are unlikely to deliver a holistic and sustainable solution – all at great public cost,” concluded Turley.

“We need to see clever solutions for this complex issue, and recognition that we need to ensure that genuine state and federal investment in social and affordable housing is a major part of the solution.”

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