Published by: Domain.com.au | December 7, 2017
Work is finally set to begin on a $35 million apartment development that will help address the “serious shortage” of affordable housing in inner Sydney.
Construction for the project that will provide 99 homes for low to middle-income earners was launched at the Cowper Street Glebe redevelopment precinct on Thursday.
“We do have a serious shortage of affordable rental housing [in Sydney], the figures are really quite shocking,” Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said at the official sod-turning ceremony.
The City West Housing development will offer a mix of studios, one, two and three-bedroom apartments, and have ground-floor commercial premises and two large communal areas including a roof terrace.
The Cowper Street development, which has been planned since 2009, was previously home to 134 social housing properties built in the 1960s. In addition to the affordable housing, it will have more than 150 social housing dwellings and almost 250 private apartments.
The apartment development, which will cost about $35 million to build, will have a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments.
The two affordable housing apartment blocks, due for completion mid-2019, are among nearly 1500 such properties in the construction pipeline across the City of Sydney, which has an affordable housing levy on development in the Green Square and Ultimo/Pyrmont precincts.
However, Ms Moore said those properties, along with 835 affordable housing dwellings already delivered with the help of the City of Sydney, weren’t enough.
“It’s a drop in the ocean considering the $25 billion worth of development that has happened,” she said.
The current supply of affordable housing is well short of the City of Sydney’s target for 15 per cent of housing in the local government area to be suitable for low to moderate income earners by 2030. Under current targets, 7.5 per cent would be social housing and the other half would be affordable housing.
Ms Moore said the private sector couldn’t be relied upon to provide affordable housing of its own accord, and renewed calls for council to be allowed to extend its affordable housing levy across the entire City of Sydney. Under the policy – contingent upon approval from the Department of Planning – developers would be required to help with affordable housing either by building it or contributing money towards it.
“We have a plan before the [state] government,” she said. “We really want it to get signed off … so we can get on with it.
“What we’re asking for is very modest … in other cities the government mandates much higher targets … all we’re doing is getting a 3 per cent levy.”
A Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said the government was committed to facilitating affordable rental housing.
They said the proposal, received in May, was in the final stages of assessment.
“To help increase the supply of this type of housing we are currently reviewing a number of housing state policies to improve their effectiveness, and to create a modern and easy to use planning system that supports streamlined approvals.”
City West Housing chief executive Leonie King said the new affordable housing project would not have been possible without the support of the City of Sydney and the NSW government, which provided the land to City West Housing free of charge. But she also hoped to see the levies, which fund the work of City West Housing, extended city-wide.
“One of the key issues for affordable housing, is getting access to affordable land, especially in premium sites where there’s a lot of demand” she said.
Both Ms King and Ms Moore said it was vital the state government continued to supply land for affordable housing, and Ms Moore added there should be a policy that any residential redevelopment on public land should be comprised of at least 20 per cent affordable housing.
Ms King said the Cowper Street development was a good example of how the city, state government and community housing providers could work together.
“There’s a lot of tension about whose responsibility this is, all tiers of government need to come together to deliver an overarching housing strategy that commits to delivering more affordable housing.”
She added that addressing the cost of borrowing, which the bond aggregator will aim to do, and securing additional funding to support the subsidised rent given to affordable housing tenants were other key challenges that needed to be addressed to increase supply.