Tuesday, June 21, 2016

NSW Budget: Social Housing funding

The Government will officially hand down the budget today, but much that will be of interest to us on the Brown Couch has already been revealed.

There's no shortage of measures relevant to the Social and Affordable Housing space. A joint statement by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard has added more meat to the bones of 'Future Directions' - the Government's ten-year plan for management and growth of the Social Housing portfolio. We detailed the three priorities of the document back in January, when the plan was announced: more Social Housing, more opportunities to avoid or leave Social Housing, and a better Social Housing experience. Much has happened on the 'more Social Housing' front since then (our Clearing House has been keeping tabs), but little otherwise. Until now; the initiatives revealed in the joint statement are best categorised under 'more opportunities to avoid or leave Housing'. They amount to $14.4 million of spending, mostly delivered over four years, for jobs, education, and support programs for Social Housing tenants. 

The 'Future Direction' of Housing is increasingly clear (though doesn't include tree houses...yet)

For one, the State will provide $4 million for a free job seekers' service for Social Housing tenants, and a further $1.2 million for 150 tenants to receive training, support, and work placements as care workers. Most important is that the job seeking service will be accessible on a voluntary basis. This would seem to satisfy our reflexive concern that such initiatives to 'improve opportunities' could in fact threaten tenancies, if tenancy agreements were conditional upon participation. And if the initiative to move tenants into work as carers seems oddly targeted, consider that the impending rollout of the NDIS is expected to create considerable new demand for care workers throughout Australia. There is also thought to be unmet demand for care workers in the aged care sector. So whilst the scope of the latter measure is decidedly modest, the strategy appears sound. We hope it captures some of the hundreds of thousands in the community performing this valuable work without pay.

For education, there's $3.2 million towards scholarships and support services for high school students from "low socio-economic backgrounds", with a view to assisting school leavers access tertiary education. We might query whether the Government hasn't shoehorned another agency's program into the Social Housing sphere, because unlike other initiatives, there's nothing in the announcement suggesting the program is actually targeted at students residing in Social Housing.

Also announced is a further $2 million, which will be provided as "seed capital" to deliver "opportunities" for students from Social Housing of pre-school age. We'd call that explanation clear as a heavy fog, in a blizzard, at night, with sunglasses on, but it's all we have to go on. So we will refrain from commenting on its worth at this stage. 

For support, the State promises $4 million "for nurse home visiting to improve child development and assist with the co-ordinated care of vulnerable and at-risk families". Given it is targeted at all vulnerable families, this presumably falls as much into the 'avoiding Social Housing' bracket as it does the giving of 'opportunities' for current public housing tenants. Though it is certainly no panacea, assistance of this kind could be a great assistance to families at risk of homelessness.

The one other detail of substance is that total spending on Future Directions programs over the next four years will come to $280 million, so it's reasonable to expect more announcements to follow.

1 comment:

  1. isn't some of this just current programs re-announced or provided with next year's funding rather than new or additional funds?


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