Concerns over rental scheme’s future

THE Shoalhaven has been used as the first stop in a tour of public housing problems around the state.

Members of the NSW Legislative Council conducted a hearing on public housing in Bomaderry recently.

The Select Committee On The NSW Inquiry Into Social, Public And Affordable Housing held the first of a series of state-wide forums as part of an information gathering exercise on April 30.

The members conducted two public hearings to consult with the council, community organisations and members of the public about how to address the affordable housing crisis in the Shoalhaven.

Southern Cross Community Housing chief executive officer Marg Kaszo spoke at the hearing.

She raised the need for clear policy and a capital funding stream for building new houses.

“It was an opportunity for us to give feedback to the government about the things we thought were important to social housing,” she said.

Mrs Kaszo also raised concerns over the future of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

The federal government is planning to crack down on the scheme amid reports it is benefiting wealthy foreign students instead of low-income householders and that the financial incentives are being traded on the market.

The $4.5 billion scheme was initiated by the Rudd government to help low-income households find affordable rental properties.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews conceded there was a problem and said the government would try to close the loophole on new properties.

He told ABC radio people who took up the scheme and got a $10,000 incentive from the government are selling their “licences” in a “futures-like” market.

The Department of Social Services will implement a more stringent process to test compliance under the scheme and stamp out any instances of non-compliance.

Mrs Kaszo said she would “love a guarantee the NRAS was going to stay.

“Or a guarantee of some other form of capital income so we can continue to provide more housing,” she said.

“Something we would like to see is a program of transfer of title from public to community housing which has happened in other areas.

“It allows the leveraging of the assets to raise finance to build more houses.

“We think housing is a corner stone of building a good strong community.” 

Select Committee of the Inquiry chairman and former Shoalhaven mayor Paul Green chose the Shoalhaven as the first stop for the public hearings because of the diversity in housing in the area.

“I thought Nowra offered a comprehensive illustration of the housing challenges NSW has,” he said.

“The whole inquiry is about information gathering.

“Let’s face it this system has been crap over numerous governments.

“Somewhere [public housing] was put in the too-hard basket because it needs a lot of resources.

“But the ongoing costs if we don’t house the vulnerable are large. They tend to need far more services unless we can house them.

“Give them somewhere to call home.”

Mr Green said he too would have great concerns if the NRAS was stopped. 

“NRAS has played a significant role in providing housing,” he said.

“Someone is going to have to mop up the financial mess it would make if we don’t continue with NRAS or something like it.”

CLEVER DESIGN: Site foreman Luke Downes, Southern Cross Community Housing CEO Marg Kaszo and asset manager Gary Watkins take a closer look at the 19 community housing units on Yalwal Road. The development is nearing completion on time and on budget.

CLEVER DESIGN: Site foreman Luke Downes, Southern Cross Community Housing CEO Marg Kaszo and asset manager Gary Watkins take a closer look at the 19 community housing units on Yalwal Road. The development is nearing completion on time and on budget.

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