Social and affordable housing – and ‘meanwhile use’

Readers of our eBulletin may recall recent articles about ‘meanwhile use’ – described as the short-term utilisation of temporarily empty buildings such as aged care facilities, residential premises, retail, and office buildings until they can be brought back into commercial operation or demolished. Besides the logistical requirements in refitting such sites, there are currently a number of planning hoops for community organisations to jump through.

This issue has been the subject, amongst others, of a current inquiry by the NSW Parliament Committee on Community Services into the options to improve access to existing and alternate accommodation to address the social housing shortage. Following our written submission, Shelter NSW CEO John Engeler accepted an invitation from the Committee to appear before it on November 8.  John’s key points were that we:

  • accept that ‘meanwhile use’ offers some creative ways to utilise otherwise empty buildings to provide temporary housing and,
  • appreciate there are some planning and logistical requirements in refitting sites (the former often harder than it should be).

But he also strongly asserted that there is “no substitute for dramatically increasing the stock of social and affordable rental dwellings across NSW.  ‘Transitional housing’ options should be temporary, as people move into longer-term secure, appropriate and affordable housing”.

Right now, right across NSW, there simply isn’t enough social housing (and increasingly affordable rental housing) for the people we represent, the lowest 40% of income earners.

That’s why we continue to ask Government to:

  • dramatically increase the stock of social housing across NSW (build or acquire 5,000 additional social housing dwellings per year for 10 years). This is not just required to house homeless people but to protect vulnerable people from becoming homeless in the first instance. 
  • stop growing the pool of homeless people, by:
  • – protecting private market tenants by removing ‘no-grounds’ evictions
  • – ensuring Government processes for ‘exiting’ or ’transitioning’ people do not in fact tip people into housing precariousness and homelessness (corrective services, juvenile justice, health and out-of-home care – noting the disproportionate impact on Aboriginal people).

Open here for a broader reminder on the background of the ‘meanwhile use’ discussion and here to read the Shelter NSW submission to the inquiry.