'Affordable housing' definition depends on location
Australia needs a clear definition for affordable housing, considering income and market rent, the NSW community housing sector says.
Despite a national rush to build thousands of social and affordable homes, Victoria includes homes bought and rented below market prices in its affordable housing stock while South Australia caps sale prices based on location and NSW guidelines consider only rentals.
"We don't think that's very helpful," Community Housing Industry Association NSW chief executive Mark Degotardi told AAP.
"It's a good time to have a nationally consistent definition."
The call follows a report by Everybody's Home which found affordable housing had moved beyond many Australians' reach because the government is subsidising the private market instead of building social housing.
The current mix of definitions allows private providers in some, but not all, markets and makes a tenant's income a critical factor in some, but not all cases.
A national definition has support from NSW Housing Minister Rose Jackson, who put it on the agenda of the meeting of state and federal housing ministers.
The association, which represents providers of 54,000 homes for low-income NSW families, considers properties to be affordable at prices below 75 per cent of market rent as long as the tenant is not paying more than 30 per cent of income. The latter being a rule-of-thumb threshold for housing stress.
NSW ministerial guidelines reference the rule-of-thumb on income but are more stringent on rent controls, being 80 per cent of market rent.
Affordable housing in NSW can also be returned to the private market after 15 years.
Urban planning expert Catherine Gilbert said the vast majority of affordable housing overseas had 30-year minimums while New York and other cities insist the properties remains so in perpetuity.
"It's ensuring that public benefit is there in the longer term," the University of Sydney lecturer in planning told AAP.
"There is no point adding affordable housing if you're losing them at the same time.
"If you have a rising housing market like Sydney, it's going to be like a treadmill, as much comes on as drops off."
It comes as NSW parliament is set to be asked about enshrining perpetuity and an income test in NSW law.
A bill introduced by the Greens would, if passed, ensure eligible households cannot be charged more than 30 per cent of their income and stop affordable housing being sold after a set date.
Greens MP Jenny Leong said Treasurer Daniel Mookhey committed to ensuring affordable housing would remain as such into perpetuity.
"But we are yet to see any moves to deliver this promise," she said.
She will also bring on debate on Thursday for a Greens bill to ban no-fault evictions, a measure the Minns government has committed to but not enacted.
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