Housing is a human right, but in NSW almost 50,000 people are waiting for social housing, with wait times of up to ten years. Housing and homelessness services have reported increased demand since COVID-19. It is projected that rising unemployment may result in homelessness in NSW increasing by as much as 24% by June 2021. This would equate to over 9,000 additional people. The number of NSW families experiencing housing stress is also projected to increase by 24.3% over the same period.
What's in the 2020-21 Budget
- $812 million for new and upgraded social housing, including new social housing properties. This includes:
- $182.9 million ($400 million over 3 years) to deliver new social housing properties by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation
- $110 million ($200 million over 2 years) to upgrade and maintain social and community housing
- $145.2 million for more than 200 new Aboriginal housing properties, upgrades and maintenance works
- $66.8 million for Aboriginal community housing providers to upgrade and maintain properties.
- $80 million over 4 years to support 300 apprentices, trainees and cadets on social housing projects delivered by the Land and Housing Corporation, and deliver 100 new social housing properties in western Sydney and regional NSW.
- $291.8 million in 2020-21 ($1.1 billion over 4 years) for specialist homelessness services.
- $29 million to expand the Together Home project and provide an additional 400 dwellings with wraparound supports for rough sleepers. This is in addition to the $36 million previously committed to Together Home in response to COVID-19 and brings total funding to $65 million.
- $27.2 million in 2020-21 to assist people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to access services and stay in the private rental market where possible during COVID-19.
What does it mean for those doing it tough?
Overall, the level of investment in housing and homelessness remains far below what is needed to address the housing crisis and rising demand.
The social housing investment will provide more households with stable housing and support jobs in the construction industry during the economic recession. This investment will also enable important repairs and upgrades to be made to existing social housing stock. However, the NSW Budget promises to deliver only 1,300 social housing properties. This is far below what is needed, and it is unclear how accurate this figure is because the net growth of stock is likely to be lower and some of the housing projects announced had already started.
More people who are sleeping rough will be able to secure housing and wraparound supports through the expanded Together Home project. However, housing for Together Home is generally obtained through private rental, and services often struggle to find affordable rental properties for Together Home clients.
Specialist homelessness services (SHS) will have their funding continued over the next 4 years – after rising to the challenge of the pandemic, this means SHS workers will be able to keep their jobs and continue supporting vulnerable people in the community.
What is needed?
This investment in new social housing is welcome and long overdue. However, it is unclear if this is entirely new funding or if it includes funding previously announced. Most importantly, the level of investment does not go far enough and there remains a significant shortfall of social and affordable homes in NSW. It is also unclear how much net growth in social housing stock will actually be delivered by this investment, as some of the new stock will simply replace old stock.
A far more significant investment in NSW is needed to deliver the necessary 5,000 homes every year for the next ten years, and to repair and maintain existing social housing stock. This would deliver short-term economic stimulus to the construction sector and household wealth, and long-term benefits for vulnerable people in the community through improved housing security, health and economic participation.
The government’s long-awaited 2040 Housing Strategy, expected to be released this year, should commit to clear and measurable social and affordable housing targets. We also need transparent reporting on the net growth of the social housing portfolio so we know how much demand for new housing stock is actually being met.
While the NSW Budget confirms ongoing funding for specialist homelessness services, this is maintenance or ‘business as usual’ funding – it does not address the fact that many organisations are already at capacity and will struggle to respond to the surge in demand that rising unemployment will bring. Funding for specialist homelessness services needs to increase by at least 20% to cope with existing and projected demand.
Budget responses from the sector:
- NCOSS 2020-21 Pre-Budget Submission
- Homelessness NSW 2020 Economic Stimulus & Budget Submission
- Yfoundations Pre-Budget Submission 2020-21
- Supporting Economic Recovery in NSW: Investment in social and affordable housing is critical to supporting jobs today and families into the future
- A Wave of Disadvantage Across NSW: Impact of the COVID-19 recession