Friday, June 22, 2018

NSW Budget week 2018: Ain't nothin going on but the rent?

With $3.9 billion surplus, this week the government splashed out with a budget they described as one 'for everyone'.

If only it were true. In reality it is very much a decision to keep on the same path when it comes to housing, and that's really a decision to help property investors at the expense of the rest of us. As Professor Peter Phibbs points out in one article there is little support for people renting on lower incomes:
“If you claim to be pushing a people’s budget, they’re the people that are in pain,” Mr Phibbs said.
“If you’re someone aged in your late 20s the fact house prices have gone up more than 70 per cent means that even if they have come back 5 per cent, you’re still not going to be out there celebrating,” he said.
“The state government has made a fortune out of stamp duty … they should be investing more of that money back into the supply of housing.”
Since we're talking about that fortune, now is a good time to think about whether stamp duty should continue to be relied on as a revenue stream. The budget papers described stamp duty as a “highly volatile revenue source” and numerous people, including the NSW Treasurer, accept that there are better alternatives - such as a broad-based land tax, the fairest tax.

We need a good supply of housing which is truly affordable to those that need it most. The Government's current plan which mostly centers on transferring public housing to community housing and the private market is not sustainable. Though it might be true to describe NSW's Communities Plus as Australia's largest social housing building program, this is more of an indictment on the country as a whole rather than something for NSW to be proud of. Public housing remains one of the best investments a government can make. Community housing can and should also be expanded, though this should not be at the cost of a well-run public housing system.

There is a clear need to shift from a reliance on property ownership to house the population. An innovative and forward-looking government, flush with cash earned from a property boom that creates winners and losers, should also be exploring ideas like expanding and encouraging community led housing models like co-operatives.

While nothing much happened for housing in the Budget, plenty happened in and around parliament  this week.

On Wednesday, the day kicked off with a renter's rights assembly out the front calling for an end to no grounds evictions.

Later that day inside the Lower House, debate began on the government's short term holiday lettings bill. The TU was mentioned a couple of times, with the ALP's Shadow Minister Yasmin Catley and Alex Greenwich both referring to concerns we have with the current proposal and flagging amendments.

On Thursday two things of note happened in parliament. The government introduced a bill to apply a range of new and harsh measures to public housing tenants, including bonds for public housing tenants. Minister Goward went on TV in the evening to repeat the claim that public housing is a privilege not a right.

Ch 7 News, 21/06/2018

However earlier that day NSW parliament had passed the following motion, introduced by the Greens MP Jenny Leong, and with members of the Coalition, Labor, and independent Alex Greenwich speaking to it:
The Hansard for the motion is well worth a read.

On the one hand we had a budget that did little to alleviate the housing crisis, and social housing legislation proposing to make life much more difficult for the people government is supposed to be assisting. But there are positive signs of changes afoot. We have a parliament who has officially recognised that housing is a human right and that it is government's role to ensure safe, secure habitable and affordable housing and a growing movement to ensure they deliver.

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