Budget shows housing boom gives with one hand, takes with the other

While a billion-dollar-plus stamp duty surge generated by pandemic stimulus will see the NSW Budget return to surplus sooner than expected, the windfall isn’t being directed into urgently solving the state’s social and affordable housing crisis.

NSW Chapter President, Laura Cockburn, said the Australian Institute of Architects joins a chorus of other groups from frontline domestic violence service providers to community housing associations in expressing its disappointment with the lack of attention to this crisis.

“This budget ignores the chronic and worsening shortage of social and affordable housing supply both for purchase and for rent across our cities, regions and towns in New South Wales,” Ms Cockburn said. 

“While infrastructure was a key focus of the Budget with the NSW Government committing $108.5 billion over the next four years, many are feeling disconcerted that housing, particularly social and affordable housing, has not been given the priority current shortfalls demand.

“Record property prices have delivered a billion-dollar-plus budget windfall, while simultaneously increasing housing stress and locking more people out of the housing market.

“In our pre-budget submission, we called on the NSW government to recognise housing as a form of infrastructure.  

“The Institute urged that investment in housing be considered in the same way as investment in road, rail, healthcare, education and other large-scale social and transport infrastructure. 

“It is only this level of strategic focus and scale of investment that will enable us to address the current affordable housing shortfall.”

The Institute welcomed the $337.9 million ($307.1 million recurrent and $204.2 million capital expenditure over four years) in the budget to enable the Land and Housing Corporation and the Aboriginal Housing Office to maintain their social housing properties but noted more was needed.

“Security of housing tenure for existing vulnerable communities must be maintained,” Ms Cockburn said. 

“It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure residents can remain in their existing communities if redevelopment does occur.

“While we support the budget allocation, we know much more is needed to adequately repair, maintain and redevelop existing public housing sites.”

Also welcome was an additional $57 million to assist rough sleepers with a pathway into housing as was a focus on renewable energy projects with investments such as:

  • $380 million to expedite investment in the construction of the central west solar, wind and storage plants
  • $149.7 million to transition to a circular economy reducing carbon emissions and waste, including $49 million to achieve net zero emission by 2050

The Institute supports the continued funding earmarked for the planting of one million trees across Greater Sydney by 2022, and an increase in the number of urban homes within 10 minutes’ walk of public open space and investment in projects such as the Western Sydney parklands.

The $179.9 million announced as part of the NSW Planning Reform Action Plan is welcome for its capacity to help streamline, increase certainty and ensure transparency in the planning system. 

The Institute welcomes the additional $1.5 million allocated to the Roads to Home Program continuing the provision of infrastructure upgrades to the communities of First Nations people, and the $5.8 million extension of the Services Our Way program linking government and non-government services for First Nations families with complex needs.

However, Ms Cockburn noted that these investments appear disproportionate when observed alongside the $828 million Sydney Football Stadium redevelopment, or even the $6.7 million for racecourse upgrades.

“The Institute will continue to actively advocate for the issues most crucial to maintaining and improving the quality of our built environment by promoting better, responsible and environmental design outcomes for all members of our community,” Ms Cockburn said.Read the Institute’s full pre-budget submission here