Three leading organisations have joined forces to tackle the issue of affordable rental housing.
Community housing provider the Housing Trust has formed a not-for-profit consortium with Wollongong Emergency Family Housing and CatholicCare to boost the number of social and affordable rental properties within the region.
Housing Trust CEO Michele Adair said the groups had been working in cooperation for many years.
However, she said they had been spurred on to formalise a partnership following a recent, multi-agency affordable housing roundtable.
The roundtable, hosted by Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones, sought to address housing affordability in the region, and included a discussion of how to utilise millions in allegedly “unspent” funding.
At Monday’s council meeting, Wollongong councillors will decide how to distribute a $10.4 million federal government grant to provide more affordable housing in the city.
In 2013, the council established the West Dapto Home Deposit Scheme to give people money to help them move into a home in West Dapto.
The scheme was unsuccessful because of rapidly rising land prices and strict grant guidelines.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery told the Mercury that when the council established the scheme, “housing prices went through the roof”.
“Now we have prized the money away from the constraints of the federal government’s guidelines so it can be properly utilised to provide affordable housing,” he said.
“Housing affordability is a huge issues everywhere. Really, $10.4 million is not a lot of money. This scheme is just a small drop in the ocean.
“The quicker we can get this money distributed, the better.”
In a letter to councillors, the new consortium requested council reject a recommendation to utilise the $10.4 million balance of the grant for a Home Deposit Scheme targeting low to moderate income earners.
“Instead, we call on council to support a motion to invest the funds to increase social and affordable rental housing stock,” the letter said.
Ms Adair said it was not appropriate in the current housing market for council to be helping a “relatively small number of home buyers, when we have such a crisis in the rental market”.
“Home ownership is a worthy and important aspiration, however our community has a rental affordability crisis,” the letter said.
“Investing to increase affordable rental stock is the priority with 1993 applicants (individuals, couples and families) currently on the social housing waiting list.
“Assisting individual homebuyers does not deliver the community benefits achieved from investing in affordable rental projects.
“These include improved health and well-being, education, employment, social inclusion and stability.”
Ms Adair said the three groups had combined to provide council with “immediate options” for spending these funds.
Ms Adair said it was planned that the three organisations would continue their consortium into the future, with each group being able to provide expertise in particular areas of specialisation.