Homeless in the Sydney? Join the queue

A protest for public housing in Sydney in 2018. Photo: Peter Boyle

While the NSW Coalition government can spend billions of dollars on rebuilding football stadiums, it says it cannot build 40,000 new public homes to house homeless people.

This is cruel and wrong. Having a certain proportion of the community go without a stable roof over their heads is a visual reminder to housed workers that their situation is precarious, and that they should be “grateful”. 

For decades, NSW state governments have been running down public housing: today the rates of homelessness and housing stress (where households pay more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage) are rising to unprecedented levels.

Homelessness in NSW skyrocketed by 37% between 2011-16, and by an astonishing 70% in the City of Sydney.

This compares to a national rise of 13.7% in the past 4 years.

The 2016 census found that in NSW some 40,000 people were homeless and 50% of households experienced housing stress. 

Over the past five years, Belmore and Wentworth parks in the inner city have been periodically filled by a sea of tents as young, middle-aged and older people without homes rough it out — only to be moved on by police.

The August 2017 crackdown on a homelessness protest in Martin Place was all about removing the visible evidence of the city’s growing homeless problem.

Stagnant wages and the rising cost of housing, electricity, transport, health and education are all contributing to homelessness and housing stress.

At the same time, Labor and Coalition state governments have overseen the sale of public housing and the emergence of a cut-throat private rental market. 

In 2014, the Coalition government evicted 590 public housing tenants in Millers Point and sold off 293 properties, including the iconic Sirius building.

In 2015, it announced the sale of the Waterloo-Redfern public tower. It wants to help its corporate mates by replacing 2000 dwellings with a housing development that would host 7000 dwellings, only 30% of which would be dedicated to social housing. 

Right now, there is a shortfall of 100,000 affordable homes for low-income households.

Wait lists for social housing in Sydney are a minimum of 5 years and, in most cases, more than 10 years.

The Socialist Alliance is calling for 60,000 public homes to be built over four years.

Around 10% of dwellings are sitting vacant. They need to be audited and filled with tenants.

Private and public rent should be capped at 30% of residents’ income, and 20% of all new apartment blocks should be built for public housing.

We have to continue to battle to maintain Sirius and the Waterloo-Redfern towers in public hands.

Join the March 14 Housing Assembly at the Sydney Town Hall to ramp up the pressure to fix the housing problem.

Susan Price is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the Western Sydney seat of Parramatta.

See also Socialist Alliance's responses to an election survey by the NSW Tenant's Union.