BY STEPHANIE TILLER
Sydney’s Inner West Council is leading the pack when it comes to providing affordable housing after the introduction of below market housing in Lewisham.
The current project includes four council owned properties at 78 Old Canterbury Road, available for rent to applicants who meet strict household income limits.
The successful applicants must be permanently working within the Inner West Council area or have a family connection to the area.
Andrew McAnulty, CEO of Link Housing, is currently managing the affordable housing project at Lewisham in association with the Inner West Council.
Mr McAnulty said the strong demand for affordable housing in the Inner West is encouraging below market housing development in the area.
“When we’ve advertised properties over the last year we’ve had hundreds of calls to our office and dozens of applications, so what it shows is the demand is huge and there needs to be more done by local and state government and by community housing providers.
“With the Inner West being so close to transport, employment and infrastructure developments on Parramatta Road and the new light rail project, it’s critical that we provide more affordable housing in the area,” he said.
The Inner West Council has also introduced a fifteen percent affordable housing target, which has been praised by peak housing groups.
Andrew Potts, National Convenor of the Affordable Housing Party, believes an affordable housing target of 15 percent is too low.
“The Mayor of London City set a target of 50 percent and that’s been difficult to achieve but they have managed to get to 35 percent.
“I think community groups in NSW have been pushing for 30 percent as a target, whether that’s achievable or not in the current environment is a different thing, but I think as close to 30 as we can get I think would be ideal,” he said.
Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of the New South Wales Housing Federation, said that although a higher target would be preferable, it would be hard to achieve.
“I support that the Inner West Council is leading the way in affordable housing and it’s not just because they’ve come up with a high target, the crucial thing is that they’ve done the background work.
“It’s easy to say ‘let’s have higher affordable housing targets’ but if you don’t do the work to show that it’s needed, when it comes to trying to achieve it you’re going to have a lot of difficulty,” she said.
Mr Potts also questioned whether the project in Lewisham provided real value for money as an affordable housing project.
“If we look at what is currently available on the Council’s website there’s only four council owned properties that are available.
“The cheapest of those is a studio for $330 a week, even for a single, low wage person that’s going to take up a huge amount of their income. To me $330 for a studio apartment in Lewisham doesn’t really seem that much lower than normal market rent,” he said.
Mr McAnulty said Link Housing and the Inner West Council have plans to develop more affordable housing in the area due to the success of the Lewisham project.
“Through expressions of interest last year we were successful and selected to work with the Inner West Council on a proposal for a beautiful affordable housing development in Leichhardt.
“We’re hoping in the next few months we’ll be in a position to submit a planning application,” he said.
Richard Pearson, Administrator of the Inner West Council, said the Affordable Housing Policy will be formally adopted at the next council meeting on March 28.
“The policy supports Council to acquire a fair share of the increase in land values resulting from rezonings and other planning decisions, to increase the stock of affordable rental housing.
“As well as our 15 per cent affordable housing target on large private developments, we are advocating for 30 percent on government owned land in urban renewal areas such as The Bays Precinct,” he said.
Greens MP for Newtown, Jenny Leong, said she will continue to support affordable housing initiatives in Sydney’s Inner West.
“These units in Lewisham are a community asset and will remain as affordable housing, providing security of tenure for tenants which we know is really important to renters.
“The Greens will continue to advocate at all levels of government for more affordable housing in our city to ensure that Sydney doesn’t just become a place where the super rich can afford to live,” she said.