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The Legislative Council Select Committee on Social, Public and Affordable Housing this week released a landmark report on social and affordable housing that highlights the need for a stronger focus on this critical issue.

The report, released on 8 September, contains 41 recommendations relating to the shortage of social and affordable housing, the future direction of our social housing system, growth in the community housing sector, inadequate maintenance, the sale of public housing properties, planning measures and linking housing with necessary support services.

The report reflects extensive input from the NGO sector and others concerned about ensuring that everyone has a place to call home.

In releasing the report the Chair of the Committee, the Hon Paul Green MLC (CDP), identified two key challenges that require priority attention by the NSW Government. The first is the need for a clear direction for social housing, in the form of a formal social housing policy, as first recommended in July last year by the Auditor General in his major report Making the best use of public housing.

The second key challenge is to find innovative ways to develop new supply of social, public and affordable housing, given that selling properties to address funding shortfalls and the maintenance backlog is not sustainable.

NCOSS made nine recommendations in its submission to the Select Committee and is pleased to note that most of these are addressed in the committee’s final report. These include recommendations leveraging affordable housing via the planning system, including affordable housing targets in planning strategies such as the Metropolitan Strategy and Regional Growth Plans, recognising social housing as a form of infrastructure and hypothecating the proceeds of Waratah Bonds to new supply, the need for an estates strategy, and investigating the feasibility of a NSW Government backed shared homeownership scheme.

Other recommendations made by the Select Committee include investing all proceeds from public housing sales into a dedicated fund to create new supply; expanding support for innovative housing models such as Common Ground and Youth Foyers; reviewing FACS policies and systems related to public housing property maintenance; expediting the transfer of public housing properties to the community housing sector; the use of Rental Bond Board monies and social benefit bonds to increase supply; and the establishment of an advisory council to the Minister.

The majority report was signed by the CDP, Opposition and Greens members of the Select Committee. The three Coalition members issued a dissenting statement on stock renewal and growth, estates, underoccupancy and related tenancy policies, and residential park fees, amongst other issues.

In responding to the report NCOSS CEO Tracy Howe emphasised that the NSW Government now has at its disposal a range of practical ideas that could make real inroads into the critical shortage of social and affordable housing. NCOSS looks forward to working with the government and parliament to shape the future of social and affordable housing in the period ahead.

A summary of the Committee’s recommendations, and the full report, can be downloaded from the NSW Parliament website.