SA must find the key to unlock affordable housing

Legislating to force developers to provide affordable housing in significant new developments is just one step in helping ease the state’s accommodation crisis, argues Maria Palumbo.

Nov 07, 2023, updated Nov 07, 2023


When it comes to increasing the supply of affordable housing, the penny is, hopefully, and finally, about to drop.

Indeed, the Commonwealth’s $10 billion Housing Affordable Future Fund can’t come soon enough. More and more South Australians are in housing stress and facing homelessness and an increasing number are turning to support services for help. At Junction, we see this every day, and it’s fast becoming the new norm.

The State Planning Commission’s recently released discussion paper to inform a Greater Adelaide Regional Plan will guide how we accommodate people as our population continues to grow, not just in a housing sense, but across every aspect of liveability.

We need to increase efficiency within the State’s bureaucracy to make the most of this momentum – and Federal investment.

The State Planning Minister must take the reins. Almost 20 years ago, South Australia led the way by mandating 15 percent affordable housing in “significant” developments. Now, it’s time for this to be legislated. Parameters need to be tightened to ensure developers are directly attracting and marketing their own affordable housing to eligible buyers, rather than relying on the South Australian Housing Authority to do this.

urban sprawl

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Let me be clear – this is not about making life harder for small developers. However, for developers planning 20-plus homes on one site, mandating 15 per cent affordable housing is a realistic ask. This is because they are already doing it, and if they partner with community housing providers, they can also get access to additional Federal grants for civil infrastructure impediments, availability payments to attract private finance on new affordable rental supply, as well as additional subsidies for shared equity products. The time has never been better to ensure all South Australians can get access to decent housing.

Of course, the reality is one in three people will never buy a house. This growing group – the missing middle including key workers – needs the next best thing. A stable and sustainable rental product.

This is crucial if we are serious about turning the tide on the housing crisis. The State’s role in establishing this new rental asset class includes unlocking land to reduce the cost of new housing that can be retained for long-term rental.

Parameters need to be tightened to ensure developers are directly attracting and marketing their own affordable housing to eligible buyers, rather than relying on the South Australian Housing Authority to do this.

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Renewal SA should be an enabler – focussed on making land available to attract subsidies from the Commonwealth to open opportunities for development and affordable rental, also known as build to rent. The agency could incentivise for build to rent in well located areas creating genuine long term, stable housing options – places where people can make it their home, for years if not decades. Renewal SA could also consider mandating a higher level of affordable housing when it purchases new sites for others to develop.

This approach then leaves the South Australian Housing Authority better positioned to preserve the land it has and be the final safety net for the four percent of our most vulnerable citizens. Individuals and families who will never be able to afford to buy or rent privately.

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Government is now acutely aware of the crisis on our doorsteps, quite literally with an increasing number of South Australians visibly sleeping rough on our streets.

Unprecedented investment is underway. Strategic thinking around system reform will ensure it is sustainable.

Maria Palumbo is the CEO of Junction, a social enterprise supporting more than 10,000 South Australians each year through a range of housing and community services.

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