Affordable housing plan needs to target those in need, Randwick Council report finds

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Planning & Development
An example of a new generation boarding house in Randwick

Generous State Government planning incentives given to developers to build boarding houses for Sydney’s lower income residents are not delivering affordable housing with many units advertised for lease at market rates for students.

The findings are contained in a report from Randwick City Council in Sydney’s east that found in the eight years since a State Environmental Planning Policy for Affordable Rental Housing (AHSEPP) was introduced in July 2009, an estimated 500 rooms have been approved in Randwick City.

Under the Planning Policy, developers are given incentives such as bonus floor space and permitted to build units as small as 12sqm – which is almost three times smaller than the minimum size for studio apartments.

The Randwick Council analysis found that while single rooms in older style boarding houses typically range from $200-$250pw, the ‘new generation’ boarding houses being built often range from $390-$500pw which is out of reach for those on lower incomes.

“The planning policy is well intentioned and has helped deliver more housing stock,” Mayor Noel D’Souza said. “Unfortunately however the policy does not control the rental amount and leaves this to the market to decide. This is pushing out those who can’t afford to pay $500 a week for a 12 square metre lodging and attracting student accommodation.

“There’s nothing wrong with providing more housing for students, but what we’re seeing is developers taking advantage of generous incentives to get bigger developments built in residential areas under the guise of helping the community and yet they’re charging market rates which are way out of reach for those most in need.

“Randwick Council is calling for a review of the planning policy and a Sydney-wide analysis of the impact of the SEPP. New controls are needed that not just encourage housing stock but control the rent to ensure it’s affordable for those it’s built for.

“I’d like to see the density bonuses removed, or to be tied to a developer obligation to lease out a certain proportion of the rooms at affordable rents,” Mayor D’Souza said.

Randwick Council will write to the NSW Department of Planning & Environment seeking the review and table the report at the Local Government NSW Annual Conference later this year.

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