If you live on the Far North Coast and you've been waiting for public housing, then chances are you've still got a long wait ahead. Earlier this month, for the first time in history, the NSW Government released public housing waiting list times, which show the Northern Rivers area has some of the longest waiting times in the state.
In Byron Bay and Tweed Heads you could be waiting at least 10 years for a one- to three-bedroom house and there is a similar wait in Ballina for two- to four-bedroom houses and Casino for two-bedroom houses.
The waiting time drops to five to10 years in Casino for houses with three to four bedrooms and in Lismore, the average waiting time is two to five years for a one- or two-bedroom house.
Northern Rivers Social Development Council housing officer Trish Evans said the government's announcement was "not a sudden revelation".
"Waiting times for social housing have always been high across NSW, especially
in our area where we have the lowest levels of social housing stock in the state," Ms Evans said.
"Part of the pressure is that we are growing so rapidly. In the Northern Rivers, the population has been growing at 1.3% per annum and Tweed is growing at 2% per annum, faster than Sydney's 1.2%. With the extra increase in population we don't have a correlating increase in the supply of housing; not just social housing, but housing for purchase and private rental."
With 56,056 people currently listed on the NSW public housing waiting list, Ms Evans said the government's release of waiting times will help people understand "it's futile to wait for housing in some locations".
"Many people don't understand the housing situation is as dire as it is," Ms Evans said. "The government is making it clear it can't be held responsible for everyone that needs housing. In the national context, NSW has the largest shortfall in housing each year of about 75,000 houses and also has the highest projected population growth. We need to stop relying on government housing and look to opportunities in the private market for purchase and for rental. There are currently opportunities available to support this through planning legislation changes."
Ms Evans also said that with so few public houses available, being on a low income was no longer a sufficient reason to gain access to public housing stock.
"The government has had to target access to housing to people in extreme need," Ms Evans said. "So that means we have more and more people who simply cannot afford housing and they are left to find housing in the private market, and this too is no longer affordable."
"There's a misconception that only people on income support payments are in housing difficulty, but it's also middle society that is struggling. There is an increase in the number of working households that don't earn enough to meet rising housing costs. In particular, towns in coastal areas are having a hard time retaining their workforce because workers can no longer afford to stay there. This can have detrimental repercussions for our communities because when people move out of high-cost areas in search of affordable housing, they often move away from employment opportunities and services, uproot their children, removing them from their social networks and take on long commutes to work."
For more information about social housing waiting times, visit the website www.housingpathways.nsw.gov.au.