I recently attended a seminar on Affordable Housing in regional areas, presented by the Planning Institute of Australia and hosted by Shoalhaven City Council.
Providing housing that is affordable in growing communities is an important but difficult challenge – particularly in regional NSW. As professionals who live and work in these areas, architects have a responsibility to assist in creating opportunities for everyone to have access to dignified housing.
Affordable housing, obviously important for low income earners, is defined by housing costs being less than 30% of income. Housing stress is experienced when payments are greater than 30% of income. According to the 2015 Census, the Shoalhaven has an average rental payment of 46% of income due to the high number of low income renters.
Regional areas are more disadvantaged by the lack of affordable housing where housing stress is compounded by poor public transport and greater distances from support services such as hospitals. The lack of affordable housing is exacerbated by high land and housing costs in coastal areas, such as the Shoalhaven. Conversely, the high cost of housing forces many people to leave the area in search of affordable housing or employment opportunities.
Providing affordable housing is a multifaceted, complex issue that must be supported by all levels of government with an integrated approach. Shoalhaven Council has made a positive start working with consultants to establish an Affordable Housing Strategy. However actions speak louder than words and the Council will now lead the way by developing affordable housing.
Society as a whole loses if there is lack of diversity. Everyone deserves respect and the ability to be sheltered in a nurturing, positive environment. Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said, “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.”