The Mercury has asked all candidates who provided an email address to the electoral commission to answer the following question: what measures do you think councils should take to encourage the development of more affordable homes?
Those who responded prior to our deadline have their answers included below, listed in the order on the ballot.
Answers have not been edited.
GROUP A – LIBERAL
John Dorahy (Mayoral candidate)
Our Jobs Action Plan will tackle housing affordability through the establishment of the Illawarra Development Corporation which will undertake an audit of public land across the region to identify underutilised public land that can be revitalised to deliver better development outcomes that will assist the Government with the delivery of affordable housing.
I will also lobby NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts to urge the state to introduce its Affordable Housing policy in Wollongong. Only available in Ultimo-Pyrmont and Green Square at present, SEPP 70 allows councils to compel developers to build affordable homes.
Households around Wollongong are shrinking. 50% of homes have 2 or less people in them and 30% are occupied by only one person. Older single women are one of the fastest growing segments of the property market and we need to consider changes in demographics as we consider our planning controls.
The housing mix in new development areas should match these changing demographics so that we are catering for all rate payers. The Development Controls from Council can enable development of a much wider range of lot sizes and housing types. We need to make decisions now to enable more affordable housing options to be developed for purchase and rent.
GROUP B – GREENS
The most recent Census data shows that more than 6,000 homes in Wollongong council area are unoccupied. That’s 8% of properties, and it’s a troubling figures given the current housing crisis.
The Greens’ Empty Homes Levy would encourage landlords to let their investment properties, or pay a levy that could be invested in local housing projects. There is a huge need for affordable housing in Wollongong, where the median house price is now over $800,000 and homelessness is also increasing.
Just building more houses is not working. Suburban sprawl is gobbling up the Illawarra's remaining agricultural land, risking development on flood prone land and leading to dormitory suburbs and traffic jams. The Greens support appropriate urban infill, with low-rise development to increase urban density in the walkable city centre.
The Greens also support the redevelopment of brownfield sites, so that people in our suburbs can live close to public transport, employment opportunities and community amenities. Development needs to be about community need, not developer greed.
GROUP D – LABOR
David Brown (Mayoral candidate)
*Complete the Housing Strategy that was progressed at Council’s July 17 meeting. The Strategy should include ‘inclusionary zoning’, where a proportion of new development’s value is captured to fund affordable rentals administered by a community-based organisation.
*Lobby for Wollongong to be covered by the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP 70) - Affordable Housing.
*Council land, especially in West Dapto, used to provide high-quality affordable housing – to increase supply and as an example for the private sector. Shared ownership models (between residents and financiers) can be explored for this housing.
*Support State Government measures such as a non-occupancy tax and stamp duty concessions for retirees looking to downsize.
*Support negative gearing reforms at the Federal level.
GROUP E – Independent
Vicki Curran (Mayoral candidate)
Vicki Curran has led to effort to get the previous Council to prepare a policy discussion paper on affordable housing. The policy paper was put on exhibition in July this year.
She will continue to press Council to finalise the paper and put in place recommendations and actions from this body of work.
Curran said, “Housing policy and making Housing more affordable largely rests with the Federal and State Governments. Apart from the boost to spending on social housing as part of the response to the GFC, they have done little except prepare discussion papers and wringing their hands. This is disappointing with both Federal and State Govt not implementing the solutions that have been extensively reviewed and would go a long way in delivering affordable housing.”
Vicki Curran and her team are please that the State Govt has recently responded to our calls to allow councils to get part of the large increases in values that rezoning deliver to landowners as contributions for affordable housing. These contributions provide us with a welcomed opportunity to provide additional social and cooperative housing stock in our LGA.
Vicki Curran’s team will fight to have Council obtain at least 10% of the increase in value from a rezoning contributed to affordable housing and will offer their experience to lead the development of some innovative affordable housing projects.
The Wollongong Housing Trust, which was established by Council also took over the houses from the Department of Housing following the Mant review (John Mant member of our team) and is the main supplier of affordable community housing in our City. It should be doing more in regards to increasing its housing stock with the income it should have received from housing given Toit by Council NSW Housing and under the Nation Building economic Stimulus Housing projects.
Vicki Curran’s team will seek to have Councils membership on the Board of the Housing Trust re-established o improve coordination and improve the performance of the Trust especially so if Council is to consider providing Affordable Housing contributions to the Housing trust.
There is increased interest in households, particularly older households, coming together to build new affordable and sustainable housing complexes as a cooperative. So Id like Council to investigate how we can encourage and support that.
There are also aged parents of disabled children and adult children suffering mental health issues that find maintaining and Independent tenancy impossible. Parents and families are left worried about how their children will cope once the parents are gone. Some of these families have resources that could go towards housing solutions that ensure ongoing assistance in a family semi independent setting. We have investigated one such complex in Adelaide and see the need for this to be a goal for our City and community.
There is a role for the expertise of the The Housing Trust, Council and leading Cooperative and Social Housing providers to develop models of new ways to design and build affordable sustainable housing to buy.
Vicki Curran and her team will ensure these models are reviewed and a best fit policy created and implemented in Wollongong.
Vicki Curran’s team will work with Council, Housing Providers and Community to put forward schemes for affordable sustainable housing for those who are looking for other housing solutions than those offered by the standard market offerings.