Architects welcome NSW Government investment in social housing stimulus, sustainability and safety

Today’s NSW State Budget makes important investments in the state’s future resilience with welcome new spending on social housing, energy efficiency and increasing the safety and quality of our built environment according to the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects.

NSW Chapter President Kathlyn Loseby said the Institute commended the Berejiklian Government for investing a further $812 million in social housing, and welcomed the dedicated funding for First Nations’ housing.

“The NSW Government has embraced the opportunity to leverage much-needed investment in social and affordable housing upgrades and new construction to stimulate economic activity in response to COVID-19,” Ms Loseby said.

“Accelerating the delivery of new social housing stock as well as funding the upgrade and maintenance of existing properties will deliver huge benefits to tenants and those waiting for secure housing, with significant flow-on benefits to the construction sector.

“It is win-win in terms of jobs and societal benefit that the Institute and others in our sector have long championed and we are delighted to see the NSW Government respond with this additional spend.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated housing stress and affordability challenges and we particularly welcome the focus in the budget on improving housing outcomes for First Nations peoples.”

The Institute also commended the NSW Government for maintaining a focus on building quality and dealing with the flammable cladding crisis in the midst of the pandemic.

“Providing an additional $27 million over four years will enable the Building Commissioner to continue and expand on the critically important work of raising standards and ensuring higher quality in our built environment,” Ms Loseby said.

“Making this investment now will pay future dividends by helping to prevent costly problems that undermine confidence and cost both the community and the taxpayer.

“Introducing a new scheme to fast-track the removal of dangerous cladding is also a welcome initiative to support consumers affected by this issue.

“Cleaning up the legacy of non-conforming and non-compliant building products is a diabolical issue and the NSW Government deserves full credit for continuing to work with industry to resolve it.”

A $157.8 million LED light replacement program in schools is a welcome first step in using energy efficiency measures to both reduce emissions and stimulate the economy but the Institute noted there was scope to further realise the benefits this offered.

“Australian governments occupy about 30 per cent of the commercial building space in Australia, including schools, offices and public buildings, and are involved in energy intensive sectors such as water supply and treatment so there is huge capacity to roll out a more comprehensive energy upgrade program,” Ms Loseby said.

“If we are to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century or earlier, as the Institute is advocating for, then a much more ambitious and broader program of emissions reductions in both existing and new building stock will be required,

“Focussing on energy efficiency improvements in homes, especially for social housing tenants, has the added benefit of helping to mitigate energy poverty in households most adversely impacted by the pandemic.”

The Institute also welcomed reforms to the planning system to increase timeliness and transparency as well as additional investment in public spaces.

Read more about the Institute’s Affordable Housing policy here. Findings from the Institute’s survey of members measuring the impact of COVID-19 is available here and the covid-19 recovery Economic Stimulus submission here.