Edward Mandla
Housing Summit Outcomes

Published On: 27/04/2015

Apart from blowing $10-$20M of ratepayers dollars on energy power plant consultant papers, this comes second as the most disappointing piece of work I’ve seen the City of Sydney produce.

It’s always a good idea that if you have a crisis, that other people know it actually exists. I googled “housing diversity crisis” and it seems no one else on Earth has ever heard of it, only us.

Described as a crisis, the best we can do is a two-hour gabfest, which really isn’t a summit, and we break people into groups leading them to the outcome, which is:

“The City is calling on government policymakers, along with the private and community sectors to work collectively to deal with the housing crisis”.

If the definition of being a failure is blaming other people for your problems, that is us. Difficult decisions will need to be made and explained to the electorate, but there is no courage in sight from us for that. We only do NIMBYism.

I’m pro housing and pro affordable housing which is why I’m against this issues paper as, once again, it achieves nothing to increase housing supply in an urgent manner.

To achieve increasing housing supply and to help the process you need rigour. This paper doesn’t have any rigor around it or any mathematical modelling.

It’s an emotive push to get everyone to feel good and to agree with Council. It’s not rational. Put in the word “affordable” and how dare you not support this - shame on you. Well, shame on you City of Sydney.

Overall, the City of Sydney is unashamedly running a strategy of trying to devalue the land of owners. Last month the Council, walked away from housing 100,000 people with 75,000 associated workspace in the Southern Industrial area ostensibly for this reason. This month the “summit” espouses intervention by the State, which would have catastrophic outcomes, and supply would eventually collapse.

The paper and so-called “summit” spends an inordinate amount of time on what it calls “distortions”, in particular, neutralising negative gearing and foreign investors.

Let’s look at those evil wealthy people that take advantage of negative gearing. According to the Property Council last week, it's nurses, teachers and clerical staff, not billionaires, who use negative gearing. And I quote CEO Ken Morrison. “Negative gearing provides an opportunity for average working Australians to save to get ahead. Demonising negative gearing, or disregarding its substantial benefits - in terms of household and retirement savings, stimulating housing supply and rental affordability - wilfully disadvantages some of the hardest working, lowest paid people in the country."

Ouch! It’s emotionally easy to blame nasty big business and rich people but rigour suggests the apparent demons are ordinary workers with a work ethic taking a risk and building housing supply.

So let’s turn to those evil foreigners. In Council on Tuesday night we’re taking it up to Asian investors but on Friday night and Saturday we’re hosting the Asian Property Expo 2015 in Town Hall. Did Cr Kok and the Lord Mayor berate our valuable guests and complain about their “One Stop Property Shop” offering “investment, mortgage, tax planning and Immigration”. Hypocrisy on steroids is what this Housing Issues Paper is.

So the question always turns to Councillor Mandla, what would you do?

I’d be worried about the 20,000 people that leave Sydney every year. As a society we’ve spent all the money on teaching and training them and were going to let them go. I’d address this brain drain.

The basically principal of affordable housing is supply.

1. I’d be reviewing the decision of condemning 265 acres of land, five kilometres from the CBD (the Southern Industrial Area), to industrial archaeology and allowing mixed residential and commercial use as three consultant’s reports said we should.

2. I would do an urgent review of our own property portfolio valued between $5.5 to $8 Billion. Where we own land we should be developing it and contributing as much as possible to affordable housing.

3. I’d be talking to our superannuation funds to develop a package of incentives for them to invest in affordable housing in our LGA.

4. I’d also look at express DA turnarounds by building a complying code that allows for 30 day approvals for affordable housing

5. I would be reviewing our “Design Excellence” provisions, which adds to costs and reduces affordability and housing supply. Design doesn’t come out of rules, everything is starting to look the same and we’re concentrating all the power in a few unelected hands. Imagine the great artists if they had to work with our “Design Excellence” rules we impose. All the artwork would all be the same and resemble a planter box. We need to balance public benefit with getting on with it.

The great irony of our emotive arguments and dragging our feet on supply is that the City of Sydney is making those demons rich. Those nasty landholders, developers and Mum and Pop investment property owners are ironically benefiting from the undersupply we inadvertently orchestrate.

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