The aggressive commitment to affordable housing by Newcastle Council has been heralded by Greens Councillor John Mackenzie as the defining achievement of this Council term to date.
“Everyone needs a home where they can feel secure, live comfortably and be part of the community,” said Councillor Mackenzie. “With so many now locked out of home ownership, we need better protections for renters, to make homes more affordable and to ensure affordable housing is available in areas with access to employment, health-care, public transport, schools and other social facilities.”
Newcastle Council has adopted the Newcastle Affordable Living Plan (NALP), which attempts to support the supply of affordable housing in the city that also provides affordable quality of life outcomes for tenants.
According to Councillor Mackenzie, “Affordable living is a more integrated and progressive approach to the housing crisis, and one that factors in the full range cost of living expenses. There’s nothing affordable about a house that costs hundreds of dollars a year to keep warm, or where you have to use your car just to take the kids to a playground.”
“Community expectations around housing are changing rapidly, and we see this in the explosion of interest around non-traditional housing options like tiny houses, co-housing and the changing face of caravan parks, boarding houses and manufactured home estates. These are evolving responses to the housing crisis.”
“We need to go beyond the standard supply-side incentives, and critically review our development controls to identify the hard, regulatory barriers that limit the viability of these alternative or non-traditional housing options.”
Newcastle Council is advocating for an Empty Homes Levy on properties that have been vacant for longer than six months.
“Right now, we have an estimated 6500 empty homes in the Newcastle area alone. Meanwhile, the Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot showed that there are no rental properties in the entire region that are affordable for a single person on Newstart or Youth Allowance. This is a perverse situation, that compounds both the housing crisis and the cost of living pressures on people experiencing financial difficulties.”
“An Empty Homes Levy creates a genuine incentive for investors to rent out properties. This doesn’t just increase the number of homes available for tenants, it also creates an additional revenue stream to enable Councils to contribute to community housing.”
Newcastle Council will also call on the State Government to introduce mandated affordable housing targets.
“With the extensive development currently underway in the city, we need to ensure affordable housing options are retained and included as part of the inner city residential mix. Affordable housing targets are a key driver of achieving that balance. Council’s recommendation of 25% affordable housing on government-owned land and 15% on private developments is a reasonable step toward getting that balance right.”
“Newcastle must be included in the State Environment Planning Policy for Affordable Housing, which allows Councils to levy developer contributions to create affordable housing. This Policy was introduced to address the rental affordability crisis for Councils in inner city Sydney. While Sydney’s affordability issues are well documented, these exact issues loom on the horizon for Newcastle within the coming decade.”