Call for council to act over city's growing 'homelessness crisis' - Illawarra Greens

Call for council to act over city's growing 'homelessness crisis'

Wollongong councillors unanimously supported a motion by Greens councillor Mithra Cox to investigate what they can do to address the growing problem of housing affordability in Wollongong. Councillor Cox asked other councillors if they were “okay with people sleeping in the sand dunes at City Beach because there are literally no other options for them”.

Among the measures they will consider is lobbying for Wollongong to be included on a state planning policy that allows councils to mandate a certain number of affordable homes within large developments.They will also look at whether developers could be encouraged to build affordable homes in exchange for the council waiving development fees or certain restrictions, and see if it would be possible for the council to build its own social housing on surplus council-owned land.

Read the article by Kate McIlwain in The Illawarra Mercury, 6 April 2018

Call for council to act over city's growing 'homelessness crisis'

Ongoing issue: The sand dunes at City Beach have become a known spot for those sleeping rough in Wollongong. Picture: Georgia Matts.
Ongoing issue: The sand dunes at City Beach have become a known spot for those sleeping rough in Wollongong. Picture: Georgia Matts.

With homelessness on the rise in NSW and Wollongong continuing to feel the squeeze from Sydney’s house price boom, Wollongong councillors have agreed to investigate what they can do to address the growing problem of housing affordability.

At this week’s meeting, Greens councillor Mithra Cox asked other councillors if they were “okay with people sleeping in the sand dunes at City Beach because there are literally no other options for them”.

“We are now in a situation in Wollongong where, if you are earning the minimum wage – you could be a household with both people employed – you can not buy a house in Wollongong anymore.”

“The means there is going to be a generation of people who are renting for their entire lives.”

She also noted that for anyone living on the government’s Newstart allowance, there was not a single house deemed to be affordable to rent within the Wollongong LGA.

This meant 16 per cent of young people on income support could not afford anywhere to live, she said.

Other councillors agreed to ask staff to supply a face-to-face briefing or written information of ways the council can intervene. 

Among the measures they will consider is lobbying for Wollongong to be included on a state planning policy that allows councils to mandate a certain number of affordable homes within large developments.

We need to ask ourselves, are we okay with people sleeping in the sand dunes at City Beach because there are literally no other options for them.

Mithra Cox

They will also look at whether developers could be encouraged to build affordable homes in exchange for the council waiving development fees or certain restrictions, and see if it would be possible for the council to build its own social housing on surplus council-owned land.

Recently released Census figures showed homelessness in NSW jumped by more than 30 per cent between the 2011 and 2016 surveys.

While the increase in the Illawarra was much lower (up by four per cent), the council last year revealed homelessness had increased by 85 per cent in the Wollongong LGA over the past decade.

As well, it said that more than 9000 Wollongong households were experiencing housing stress and struggling to pay their rent or mortgages.

“This has been backed up by a number of letters we have received as councillors complaining about people sleeping rough in the sand dunes at South Beach and other places in the city, so these stats are not just stats,” Cr Cox said.

“So I want to get a sense about what levers are available to us to help improve this situation.”

Her notice of motion was supported unanimously by other councillors.

Additionally, later this year, the council will be publishing the next stage of its future housing strategy for the city, releasing an options paper which will provide more detail on some of the above measures.