Prime Minister Anthony Albanese touring flood affected areas.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, touring flood-affected parts of Sydney recently, said while Australia had always suffered from natural events such as floods and bushfires, they were now occurring more frequently and with greater intensity. 

Experience shows the growing impact of climate change disproportionately affects those who can least afford it. 

The past few years should be prompting us to consider the diversity and resilience of our housing, and the infrastructure that is needed to support it as the effects of climate-change increase the scale and severity of natural events. 

Surely there is no greater sign that Australia’s housing system is in crisis?

The NSW government’s new initiatives to assist key workers and single parents to purchase a home will see single parents and older singles, as well as frontline workers like teachers, nurses and police able to participate in shared equity scheme – a collaborative effort with the Albanese government – that will enable 3000 buyers a year to enter the market with just 2 per cent of the property’s total value. 

Whether they buy or rent, the reality is many low to moderate income earners are forced to roll the dice with living in areas that are increasingly at higher-risk because there are very few options open to them, at a price (and with insurance) they can afford. We’re seeing people question the viability of greenfield sites, former floodplains, on the outskirts of cities that serve as commuter suburbs. 

But is home ownership still the Australian dream? And at what price?

Perhaps. But conversely, home ownership some distance from jobs or in regions where infrastructure is under pressure shouldn’t be forced upon low and moderate earners because of a lack of alternatives. 

Indeed, for many essential workers, such as police and healthcare staff, moving to new locations comes with the job. For these households at least, there is a much more immediate need for affordable rents and a diversity of housing options to improve choices, and accessibility to their place of employment.

It is those on low incomes who make up a large portion of the number of Australians who have been displaced during floods and bushfires. With many people affected and limited stock in these areas, the homes that are available for rent increase in price which forces those who miss out to live in short term accommodation such as caravans and tents. And this dire situation impacts their health, wellbeing, education and training, and their employability.

Government alone can’t solve this problem

As part of a broader effort to understand the risks facing households, the federal Treasury is modelling the impact of climate change on the Australian economy. And those findings are set to be included in the intergenerational report. This is good news.

This is a problem that is large enough for the public and private sector to share.   

The key to progress will be mobilising public and private sector partnerships if we are to take the opportunity and fulfil our responsibility to address the mounting affordable housing challenge.

If we’re going to make the system fit for purpose and capable of growing to meet future demand, we need the right policy and regulatory changes that will help open up opportunities to attract long-term investment from an expanded pool of private investors who we know are keen to help drive social progress.  

Attracting institutional investors like the super funds will require a coordinated approach from all levels of government to ensure that tax, regulatory policy, or financial incentives focus on scalable development opportunities. 

Together, we need to address structural reforms and deliver a well-capitalised national social and affordable housing system that has the capacity to meet longer-term demand for affordable rental properties and withstand the impacts of economic volatility, climate events.

Community housing providers are working with private sector partners, investors and the federal and NSW governments to mobilise a meaningful scale of investment into more social and affordable homes. This will create a springboard to home ownership for those who hold this dream but is also a safety net for those who simply need a home close to their place of work, close to where they go to school and within reach of their friends and family.

Founded in 1985, SGCH is the largest community housing provider in NSW. SGCH provides a place to call home for 11,500 people in 7000 properties across the Sydney metropolitan region.

Scott Langford, SGCH

Scott Langford is the CEO of SGCH. Since joining SGHC in 2016 Scott and his team have secured a development pipeline of 1,000 new social and affordable homes in Sydney, underpinned by $450 million in financing commitments. He is currently a member of the NSW Community Housing Industry Council and a Director of CHIA NSW. More by Scott Langford, SGCH

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