“WE'RE now in a really challenging environment ... the standard in Australia has been [for people] to own their own home and now it is increasingly out of reach for people with good jobs, who work hard.”
“Today people are sitting in expensive rental housing and they may well be sitting there for all of their lives,” Ms Ferguson added.
Professionals from the community and property sector were invited to the inaugural meeting to look at solutions to a concerning and mounting issue.
Illawarra Forum CEO Nicky Sloan said she hoped the breakfast would result in the formation of a “coalition of the willing” to address the “number one issue for everyone”.
Key strategies discussed included changing the way social housing was perceived, getting more developers on board and changing outdated government policies.
Ecoblue Developments director Nick Murdoch called for more developers to work with non-profit-organisations, like The Housing Trust, to create well designed and affordable housing.
Fountaindale Group director Jennifer Macquarie said NSW policy was lagging behind other states and would take 12 years to catch up.
“For many years we’ve been contending with a very constrained and inefficient planning system. Councils are under resourced, there’s conflict between the requirements of various government agencies … and policies change,” Ms Macquarie said.
She also urged councils to update policies deemed “out of date”, using examples of different rules for different councils and exorbitant fees making it difficult to create affordable housing.
Sebastian James from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services pushed the dire concern for something to be done, telling of a growing number of homeless people riding the late night South Coast line trains.
He spoke of a former paramedic in his 40’s, who lost his family when he lost his job five years ago.
“The most interesting thing about his story, is he currently has a casual job so he’s got the means to afford a home. But he wasn’t able to find anything [suitable] on the rental market … and he’s also on the social housing register,” Mr James said.
Jancey Malins from the Illawarra division of the Property Council closed the meeting by reiterating the conversation needed to continue because it deals with “real lives”.
“It would be really fantastic if the Illawarra became really well known in this area,” Ms Malins said.
She said the ambition was to eventually create a charter for professional bodies to sign and demonstrate their commitment to making housing more affordable for everyone in the region.