A multi-agency roundtable sought to address housing affordability in the region, including a discussion of how to utilise millions in allegedly “unspent” funding.
Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones met with key stakeholders for an Affordable Housing Roundtable at Warilla on Monday.
Mr Jones met with groups including Southern Youth and Family Services, Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven, the Wollongong Homeless Hub and Warrigal to discuss the issues around affordable housing and possible solutions.
Mr Jones said the event came after it was revealed that Wollongong City Council is “sitting on” $9.2 million funding, provided by the former Federal Labor Government in 2013.
Mr Jones said while this money remains unspent, hundreds of locals remain without a roof over their head.
He said the money provided to Wollongong City Council was part of $13.9 million from the Building Better Regional Cities Program, and was to be set aside to help low-and-moderate income earners to buy a home in West Dapto.
“Five years on, and there has been no action from council who say the funds are sitting and gathering interest,” he said.
“I can understand as far as the original purpose (of the funding), things have changed... But housing prices are going up, homelessness is increasing.
“And they're sitting on $10 million. That's just not good enough.
“I’m convening the meeting today because I want to hear from the community sector, because I reckon they've got a bunch of ideas about what we could do with that money. Let’s get some solutions, put them to council, put them to the federal government, make it happen.
“Let’s get this money spent on something that is going to help put roofs over people’s heads who really need it.”
A Wollongong council spokesperson said the funds were released to council’s control about 12 months ago after the termination of the scheme.
“Prior to that they were tied up as part of the funding agreement with the federal government that council entered into in June 2012 with the then Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
“The funds now being held by council have grown to more than $10.4 million, a $1.2 million increase on the original funding grant.”
The spokesperson said council staff have been carrying out research and working with councillors to identify the best use of these funds.
“Our focus is on ensuring the best use of these funds that reflect both local needs and the original intentions of the West Dapto Home Deposit Assistance program.
“It’s anticipated a report will be presented to council before the end of the year to further progress this matter.”
At Monday’s forum, Mr Jones noted that older women were highly represented in homelessness statistics.
However, Narelle Clay, CEO of Southern Youth and Family Services also said there were many young people who were unable to get into the private market.
“There is not a single unit of housing across the Illawarra or Shoalhaven that’s affordable for young people on low incomes, even if they’re working,” she said.
“That’s a disgrace. So we need some effort put into it, and we’ll take whatever's there (funding wise) and we’ll make it work.”