The NSW State Coalition Government has announced that if re-elected it will create a new fund for the development of new social housing and affordable housing.
Premier Baird and FACS Minister Upton indicate that 'up to $1 billion' would be made available through the fund, which the Government has linked to its electricity privatisation program. The NSW Council of Social Service and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Government in relation to the fund.
The Coalition Government's interest in increasing funding for social housing and affordable housing is welcome. It acknowledges that present funding levels for social housing in New South Wales are too low to meet the needs of the community. As we said in our submission on the State Government's social housing discussion paper, what it calls the 'present funding envelope' is a starvation ration that cannot sustain present operations, much less grow the sector in line with community need.
It also acknowledges that social and affordable housing is 'infrastructure'; that is, something that helps the community function productively. Social and affordable housing can give people a bit of stability and hence the opportunity to get into education, training and work; and can put workers in places where they are needed.
The link to electricity privatisation is controversial. As we've discussed previously, State Governments need to get their money from somewhere. They can get money by negotiating grants from the Federal Government; from their own power of taxation; from selling things like electricity assets; from borrowing (which is really another sort of sale – that is, the sale of a promise to pay back more, which is something State Government's are in a powerful position to promise, because they can tax).
The NSW State Government can use any of these means of getting more money to better fund social and affordable housing. Parties opposed to the sale of electricity assets can and should commit to more funding for social housing and affordable housing.