Should developers be forced to provide affordable housing?

By Julia Moiso.

Source: City of Sydney
It seems like there is always an affordable housing strategy being circulated within local and state government as an everlasting means to combat housing affordability issues. With the City of Sydney’s recent proposal, developers building in inner Sydney suburbs will be required to make a contribution – either a monetary payment to a community housing provider or an in-kind contribution of finished homes in their development for affordable homes – on new building projects across the city.

The proposal, announced recently by Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore, recommends expanding the council's current affordable housing policy, which operates only in pockets of the city, across the whole council area – a move which would boost the number of low-income homes by 40 per cent, but likely anger developers.

This has curated some backlash both from developers who have to ‘donate’ part of their development in the name of affordable housing, as well as established residents within the area. This recent proposal which forces developers to provide affordable housing has sparked recent debate amongst property developers, as some feel that it ‘undermines the viability of the development’. Strong opposition is also found well within the community, as developments that provide affordable housing solutions or contributions generally receive double the amount of neighbour objections as opposed to a development that does not provide affordable housing provisions.

So, why is this? Why is there a seemingly negative stigma around providing affordable housing units? It’s important to remember the difference between social housing and affordable housing. Affordable housing is more open to a broader range of household incomes (usually low to moderate incomes) than social housing, and is often managed privately, so households can earn higher levels of income and still be eligible. Social housing is provided for people on very low incomes which is usually managed by a government body.

The general consensus pressing society within cities like Melbourne and Sydney is evidently housing affordability, which appears to be high on the politcal agenda. So naturally, it seems to be that everyone is all for providing affordable housing measures...except when it comes to their street.

According to Strategic Housing Solutions principal Robert Furolo, development that incorporates affordable housing measures receive double the amount of objections than that of a development without affordable housing. People may often generalise affordable housing tenants with negative connotations like "junkies" and lazy young troublemaker's; an unhealthy stigma that is not a sustainable attitude towards responding to metropolitan housing unaffordability crisis.

Should push-come-to-shove when it’s time to get serious about providing affordable housing measures? Can it be said that Sydneysiders may be standing in their own way when it comes to creating a more affordable city? If such an attitude towards affordable housing is not changed, community opposition may be one of the contributing factors to slowing down the supply of much-needed affordable housing.


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