New incentives aimed at boosting the supply of affordable housing in large residential developments have been heralded as the best news in this space in years by one expert, but Wollongong's lord mayor has flagged some concerns.
The NSW government says housing developments valued at over $75 million that allocate at least 15 per cent of floor area to affordable housing will gain access to the fast-tracked state significant development assessment process, taking the decision-making from councils and planning panels and giving it to Planning Minister Paul Scully or the Independent Planning Commission.
These developments will also gain an extra 30 per cent to the floor space to land ratio, and will be able to go 30 per cent higher than local environment plan limits.
Michele Adair, the chief executive officer of Illawarra-based community housing provider the Housing Trust, said the news was "really encouraging" and "the best announcement we've had in relation to affordable rental housing and the current crisis in years".
"[The development is] going to be something of significant size and scale, and so I think the ability to have projects of substance assessed on merit quickly, rather than being caught in the very slow and often difficult process of council, is a good thing," Ms Adair said.
While ideally a higher minimum ratio of affordable housing than 15 per cent was preferred, Ms Adair said, she was grateful for this commitment from the government and believed it was a good start.
She said she was sure down the track this would increase, noting the norm in many cities internationally was 50 to 60 per cent.
Mr Scully has confirmed that affordable housing will be managed by registered community housing providers.
"In my view, the housing should only be managed by registered not-for-profit community housing organisations," Ms Adair said, adding there were otherwise no safeguards for tenants.
She also hopes that measures to increase the supply for affordable housing go further, to mandate its inclusion in all developments.
Wollongong City Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the council would look at the details of the announcement closely.
"On the face of it, I have concerns about the complexities and the potential impact on local residents of significant new housing developments that override local environment plans under these reforms," Cr Bradbery said.
"I will be reviewing the details of these reforms closely.''
Mr Scully said the government would work with councils on the implementation of the changes, but they would not override where councils determined such developments should go.
The changes are due to come into effect later this year.
"We're facing a shortfall of more than 130,000 new homes over the five years to 2029," Mr Scully said.
"These changes provide incentives to build more affordable housing with the new pathway providing greater certainty and delivering the government more control of the decision-making process."
He said the changes worked in conjunction with other government measures to address the housing crisis, including the plan to mandate 30 per cent social and affordable housing in developments on surplus public land and rental reforms to encourage longer tenancies.
Ms Adair moved to assure people nervous about density that any developments going through this process would still be assessed on their merit, with all implications taken into account.
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