Tuesday, March 20, 2018

FACS and figures: Delving behind the figures for the waiting list and new social housing dwellings

Post authored by Robert Mowbray, Policy Officer - Older Tenants.

On Monday, 5 March 2018 the Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward, sent out a media release
Hundreds of people on the social housing waiting list and hundreds more will have access to brand new homes as the NSW Government continues to deliver on its promise to build more housing through the sale of properties in Millers Point. ... We are assisting vulnerable people by building new social housing. ... To date, the Government has completed construction on 775 new homes with a further 372 under construction ... funded through the sales program so far.
Let’s delve behind the figures for the waiting list ... and other vulnerable people, and for new social housing dwellings in this State.

Waiting list

At 30 June 2017 the social housing waiting list in New South Wales remains in excess of 50,000 applicants.
Source: Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, 'Report on government services 2018', Productivity Commission, 23/1/18, Table 18A.5. Figures for 2008 to 2012 from previous reports. (You can view Table 18A.5 here.)

The seriousness of this figure is reinforced by the fact that specialist homelessness services provided support to just under 75,000 people in New South Wales in 2016-17. (View Table CLIENTS.1 here.)

And, indeed, the recently released 2016 ABS Census ‘Estimating homelessness 2016’ data shows that the number of people who are homeless in New South Wales has soared by more than one third between the 2011 and 2016 censuses. On Census day in 2016 they numbered 37,715 people. You can check this out here. You can read more about this here.

In a recent article in The Conversation, Emeritus Professor Gavin Wood and others of RMIT University, assert that ‘public housing is the most important factor in preventing homelessness among vulnerable people’ and, further, ‘the empirical evidence also suggests that community housing fails to provide the same protection for people at risk of homelessness.’ Read their article here.

Yes, the Minister is correct in saying there are hundreds of people on the social housing waiting list. Indeed, over the last ten years this figure has been increasing. However, the figure at 30 June 2017 represents a decrease of 7,460 (12.6%) on the previous year’s. Note (d) in Table 18A.5 (referred to in the above figure) states that ‘data for 2016-17 exclude suspended applicants’. So what is meant by suspending an application? You will find the answer in a policy document here . FACS or a community housing provider participating in Housing Pathways may suspend (make non-active) an application for social housing or transfer for many reasons, including:
  • Pending receipt of further information or proof of social housing eligibility or housing requirements.
  • If a client is temporarily unable to accept an offer of accommodation because of:
    - being currently in prison;
    - illness, hospitalisation or holidays;
    - caring for a family member.
  • If a client has a debt from a former social housing tenancy of more than $500
  • If the client applying for a transfer has rental arrears, nuisance and annoyance breaches or any other tenancy breaches that are currently under investigation.
So, it appears that the reduction in the number of applicants on the waiting list in New South Wales over the last year may be due primarily to an ‘administrative cull’.

Other vulnerable people

No-one would disagree with the assertion that a very large number of people on the housing waiting list in New South Wales are vulnerable, given the state of the housing market.

But, let’s not forget the residents of Millers Point who were forced to re-locate.

Family and Community Services Housing kindly has provided the following information. At the beginning of the process there were 579 tenant and household members (in 399 tenancies) to be relocated. At 8 February 2018, 578 tenant and household members have either vacated or are committed to moving. One tenant is refusing to move. There are no tenancies remaining in the Sirius Building. During the course of the forced relocations, the sales of 28 properties in Millers Point were deferred. These were set aside for some of the remaining tenants and household members in November 2015. Of these, 21 are occupied by 19 tenancies.

The impact on the residents of Millers Point and the Sirius building who have been relocated has been traumatic for many. Their experiences have been documented by Professor Alan Morris in a report entitled ‘A contemporary forced urban removal: The displacement of public housing residents from Millers Point, Dawes Point and the Sirius Building by the New South Wales Government’, published by Shelter NSW here. Also, you may read Professor Morris's article called '"It was like leaving your family": Gentrification and the impacts of displacement on public housing tenants in inner-Sydney' in the Australian Journal of Social Issues here . In this article, Professor Morris places the events at Millers Point in a broader context. Watch this space for Professor Morris's forthcoming book with a similar title.

New dwellings

To meet such a massive need for social housing, it is worth asking whether there has been an increase in the number of such dwellings across New South Wales over the last three years.

We start to obtain a picture by looking at the Productivity Commission's 'Report on Government Services 2018' released in January 2018. Here we find the latest figures on the number of social housing dwellings across Australia. You can check these here . Table 18A.3 clearly shows that there was a net decrease in public housing stock in the three years to 30 June 2017 (latest published figures) by a figure of 584 dwellings.

Productivity Commission's 'Report on Government Services’ and other government data are not transparent about increases and what is affordable, as distinct from social housing.

Source: Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, 'Report on government services 2018', Productivity Commission, 23/1/18, Table 18A.3. See Note (d) for correction to figure for 2011.

Over the same period, there has been net increase in community housing dwellings of 2,754 (after deducting National Rental Affordability Scheme tenancy rental dwellings).

Source: Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, 'Report on government services 2018', Productivity Commission, 23/1/18, Table 18A.3. Community housing data include affordable housing. However, this table has been adjusted to omit National Rental Affordability Scheme community housing tenancy rental dwellings for 2016 and 2017, because these were omitted for previous years (see Note (d). Other affordable housing that is included is properties transferred over several years from the Nation Building Economic Stimulus Program.

A key question is how many public housing dwellings were transferred to community housing between 30 June 2014 and 30 June 2017. The Productivity Commission's report does not provide figures on the number of social housing dwellings transferred. Family and Community Services Housing advises that the number of properties transferred from public housing to community housing between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2017 was 679. This leaves us with an increase in community housing dwellings over the three year period of 2,075. Part of the increase in community housing stock in recent years comes from the Nation Building Economic Stimulus Program (NBESP). There are no published figures here.

So, there appears to be an increase in public housing of 95 dwellings, if we don’t count transfers to community housing.

Sales of Millers Point properties to 22 February 2018 number 172 (check here) and total $527.4 million (plus stamp duty of a further $28.3 million). You will find information about the public housing properties built with the proceeds of these sales here. 775 dwellings have been built up to January 2018, with another 372 under construction. To calculate the net gain from these proceeds, you will need to subtract 371 dwellings (399 less 28 retained dwellings) which represent the stock being lost in Millers Point.

Also, the number of public housing dwellings will have been reduced by properties demolished to allow for the new construction, and any dwellings removed from the stock as part of Communities Plus. These figures are unknown.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the need for social housing increases at least at the same rate as the population. (Indeed, in times of high housing stress, it should be greater) The rate of increase in social housing stock over the last three financial years is only a third of the rate of population growth in NSW.
Source: Population data from ABS at Jun 2014 and Jun 2017. Former viewed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/54A5E977BB10644CCA257E1300775B9B?opendocument Latter viewed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3101.0Main+Features1Jun%202017?OpenDocument
The construction of new dwellings from the proceeds of sales of Millers Point properties represents small growth only. Yes, we have seen a steady, but modest stream of new supply. So, what of the future?

There is slim hope that the Sirius building can be retained as social housing. In mid-February of this year, the Tenants’ Union of NSW forwarded a submission to the NSW Planning and Environment arguing that future use of the Sirius site incorporate significant proportions of social and affordable housing, in addition to any private ownership of residential dwellings that may be permitted within the building to help give it a viable financial future. You may read our submission on their website here.

It is disappointing that sales of public housing are used to give very modest increases in stock at a time when the NSW Government ran a budget with a substantial surplus and, accordingly, had available to it substantial, alternative funds for its building program. What is also noteworthy was the lack of consultation before the decision to sell in Miller's Point.

Let’s hope that the future is brighter. On 14 August 2017, the Minister Goward announced the successful tenderer for the Ivanhoe Estate at Macquarie Park where social housing dwellings will increase by more than three-fold – from 259 social to 950 social and 128 affordable dwellings. (You can read about this in a media release here.) The NSW Government is pressing ahead with its Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) as ‘an innovative approach to the way we are delivering social and affordable housing in NSW’. You may read more about it here. On 12 September 2017, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister Goward announced that the Government had now committed to a target of 3,400 new social and affordable dwellings through this fund, following 2,200 announced in March 2017. Check here. On 7 Feb 2018 the NSW Government officially opened the Expressions of Interest for the second phase of its Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF), which will deliver up to 1,200 additional social and affordable homes. In this phase, at least 70% are to be social housing. Check here.

1 comment:

  1. What a disgrace that the Public is funding the community housing sector with NO guarantee that the rent will stay at 30% of household income. When will the Gov realise that the Public Housing was purchased with the Public's money and when selling Millers Point, the Public expect this money to be reinvested in Public owned housing of which Comm Housing isn't. Despite the Gov paying for the NGO's properties, the Gov, therefore the Public whose money was spent on this will have no say if the NGO wants to sell this property for money for wages and/or overheads. Think about it


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