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24 November 20203 minute read

Community and social housing boost features as budget priority

The NSW State Budget for 2020 - 2021 was handed down last week, in the face of unprecedented times linked to Australia’s COVID-19-induced recession.  Designed to help chart a course out of the recent economic downturn, the Budget includes a raft of new measures aimed at stimulating economic activity.  Chief amongst these are measures directed at improving the quality of and access to social housing; issues that were already pressing before COVID-19 and which are likely to be exacerbated by the economic turmoil left on the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The Budget includes enhanced funding for the social housing sector, which has been singled out as a priority for the NSW State Government.
The funding boost unveiled by the NSW Treasurer includes:

  • an $812 million commitment to undertake significant maintenance and upgrades of social and Aboriginal housing.  Specifically, this includes:
    • $400 million over the next three years for the construction and acceleration of approximately 1,200 new dwellings new social housing properties across NSW by the Land and Housing Corporation;
    • $200 million over the next two years for upgrades and maintenance works to existing social housing dwellings, including properties managed by community housing providers; and
    • an additional $212 million over the next four years for new supply and targeted improvements to Aboriginal housing projects;
  • $20 million ($80 million over four years) for 300 new housing sector pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and cadetships to provide career pathways for young people and social housing tenants; and
  • a $29 million commitment over 2020-21 and 2021-2022 to extending the Government’s flagship Together Home project. Originally unveiled in June 2020, the project has been billed as a transformative partnership between the government and 19 community housing providers to address rough sleeping on NSW streets by securing housing from the private rental market and combining this with the provision of wrap-around support services.  

This comes off the back of announcements in April, where the NSW Government directed $60.5 million from its $2.3 billion COVID-19 Rescue Package to COVID-19 related emergency accommodation and targeted repairs and maintenance work on existing social housing properties.  This initial investment formed part of the NSW Government’s effort to fast-track ‘shovel-ready’ projects as part of the economic response to the pandemic. 

Further reforming the social housing space, new guidelines (Good Design for Social Housing and LAHC Dwelling Requirements) have recently been released by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation in cooperation with the Government Architect NSW which will benefit social housing occupants by, among other requirements, adding five-square-metres of floor space to the layout of new dwellings.

Across the border, the Victorian Government also recently announced an ambitious social housing drive, underpinned by a $5.3 billion commitment to fund the construction of more than 12,000 new social and affordable homes over a four year period.   The Victorian Government has also announced the creation of a new agency, Homes Victoria, to oversee and coordinate its construction efforts and to liaise with key stakeholders in industry. 

The NSW Budget and similar developments in Victoria are welcome recognition by State Governments that enhanced building and construction activity and improved access to affordable housing will play a key role in the planning of a prosperous, post-pandemic future.