Thursday, April 3, 2014

Millers Point and The Rocks: cold hard facts

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward has today presented her rebuttal to Anthony Albanese's personal reflection on the proposed sell off all social housing at Millers Point and The Rocks. Says the Minister, let's talk on the level of 'cold hard fact'.

It is a cold, hard fact that selling social housing assets to pay the recurrent costs of the social housing system is precisely the unsustainable approach that alarmed the Auditor-General.

The Minister has stated that the proceeds of sales will be 'reinvested in the social housing system'. She has not stated, however, where any new housing purchased will be, or how much of it there will be – indeed, she has not said that the proceeds will go to the purchase of new housing at all.

The Minister implies an expansion of the social housing stock when she says that for each Millers Point resident Housing NSW could 'help more than five tenants in places like Campbelltown.' We don't think she means to imply that Housing NSW is planning on putting 2045 additional social housing properties in Campbelltown, and in any event, the subsidy multiples the Minister refers to are based on accounting for market rents, which, as we discussed earlier, do not reflect the actual cost of providing housing and related services.

We don't know what Housing NSW is planning. The cold hard fact is that there is no plan.

There's no plan for the local impact of the sales – that is, the loss of affordable rental housing in the inner city. In its response to the social impact impact assessment, NSW Family and Community Services (cold hard FACS?) expressly disavowed any role in developing non-heritage sites for affordable rental in the area, stating that 'development of affordable and mixed tenure housing in Millers Point is a planning consideration for the City of Sydney.'

And there's no plan for the sustainability of the social housing system generally: no asset portfolio strategy, no estates strategy, despite their recommendation by the Auditor-General.

All we have is a decision to sell-off 293 high-value properties... within two years. The previous sales programs in Millers Point proposed to sell 36 properties in eight years. By contrast, what's happening now looks like a fire sale.

That's the strong impression it gives. Back to cold hard facts. Half of Millers Point residents are aged 60 or over. And about one-fifth have lived in their current tenancy for more than 20 years – more if successive tenancies were counted. The Minister refers to their mere 'short-term anguish' on the loss of their homes, neighbours and community. This is, with respect, wishful thinking on the part of the Minister.

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