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17 May 2021

Budget sticks to the same failed script on housing

The initial reactions to this week’s big spending budget have been relatively positive. Extra money for childcare, aged care and an extension of low and middle income tax offsets are all welcome. On the question of housing however, this budget falls well short of the mark.  

Yet again there is no meaningful investment in social and affordable housing. Instead, what we have is another counterproductive mish-mash of grants and subsidies designed to lure marginal or sub-prime borrowers into the property market.

As always, these measures are being pitched as a way of improving housing affordability. This is pure nonsense. Rather than improving affordability, a better way to think about first home buyer subsidies is as an admission that homes are so unaffordable that regular people can’t buy one unless the government helps pay for it. As affordability declines, the size of the government’s contribution has to increase, hence the extension of the First Home Loan Deposit scheme which helps buyers into the market with deposits as low as 5 per cent, and the creation of a new version for single parents where the required deposit could be as low as 2 per cent. 

The reason subsidies and deposit guarantees don’t improve affordability is because they’re not designed to control house prices – they’re designed to take people who can’t afford a house under the normal rules and bend those rules so they can afford one. And while it is true that subsidies improve affordability for those who receive them, the recipients represent a miniscule share of total buyers. At the broader level, subsidies do nothing to prevent prices from going up, in fact they do the opposite by enabling people to pay prices they couldn’t otherwise afford.

The other striking aspect of the budget’s approach to housing is the degree to which spending is skewed towards the private sector. In total, the budget contains roughly $905 million of new housing related expenditure. Of this, almost $775 million (85%) has been set aside for the HomeBuilder program, originally unveiled during the height of the pandemic as a way to stimulate the construction industry. But with private dwelling commencements running at their highest level in more than a decade, and prices rising faster than any time in the previous 30 years, it is far from clear that the construction industry needs additional support, let alone 85% of the new allocation. At the other end of the housing spectrum, the budget contains just $124m in additional money for the states under the National Housing and Homelessness agreements – this at a time when there are more than 150,000 households on social housing waiting lists across the country.

The Commonwealth would no doubt say that social housing is a state responsibility and point to the fact that it provides roughly $1.6 billion to the states each year to help take care of the problem. Technically, that is correct. The problem is that it isn’t working. The NSW Government already spends more than six times what it receives from the Commonwealth on housing and homelessness services, and there are still 50,000 households on the waiting list. The unavoidable conclusion is that this problem is beyond the ability of state governments to resolve. Without substantial intervention from the federal government, including the creation and oversight of a national housing strategy, we risk sliding into a neo-feudal model of society characterised by a shrinking class of highly indebted property owners, a growing underclass of permanent renters, and high levels of homelessness.

Adequate and affordable housing is a prerequisite for a thriving economy as well as a flourishing society. Most experts agree we need at least 500,000 new social and affordable dwellings over the next decade, merely to prevent Australia’s housing crisis from becoming worse. As well as helping relieve pressure on low-income households, a nation building investment in social and affordable housing would create a long-term pipeline of work for the construction industry, as opposed to the  short-term sugar hits from schemes like HomeBuilder.

This week’s budget proved that the government’s long-standing aversion to debt and deficits is a thing of the past. It is a shame the counterproductive approach to housing affordability wasn’t jettisoned at the same time.


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22 Apr 2021

Social and Affordable Housing Reaches New Heights in Wickham

Construction of a 16-unit social and affordable housing complex in Wickham is surging ahead with the “topping out” milestone celebrated today.

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said the project would provide safe and secure housing for people on low incomes.

“These new homes will not only provide people with a roof over their head, but access to support to help them improve their health and general wellbeing,” Mr Ward said.

“Today’s milestone brings the completion of this important project one step closer, with the first tenants expected to get the keys to their new homes later this year.”

The 16-unit complex is a partnership between the NSW Government, City of Newcastle, and Compass Housing.

Compass Housing chief corporate services officer Lyndall Robertshaw said Compass is delivering nearly 500 properties, across 19 Hunter and Central Coast sites, as part of the NSW Government’s Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF).

“Rents have been rising sharply across the Hunter over the past 12 months and the need for properties that are affordable to key workers and people on low incomes is greater than ever,” she said. 

“Projects like this one show what’s possible when different levels of government work together and leverage the know-how of the community housing sector.”

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the initiative would help alleviate housing stress and provide more options for vulnerable people.

“This joint venture means more homes close to transport, jobs and other amenities and will ensure greater diversity of residents in our inner-city community,” Cr Nelmes said.

The SAHF is on track to deliver more than 3,400 homes across NSW, with 1,958 dwellings completed and more than 1,000 under construction. 


MEDIA INFORMATION: Craig Eardley on 0437477493. For Minister Ward contact Jordan Matthews 0409 317 892

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21 Apr 2021

Earn and Learn with a Cadetship

Compass social housing tenants, if you're over 25, and your Compass branch office is Newcastle or East Maitland, you can now apply for a place in the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) NSW and NSW Government Cadetship Program. This cadetship offers 12-months paid employment with a community housing provider and training in property management and asset development through a Certificate IV in Social Housing.

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You will need to include in your application:

  • Your Unique Student Identifier number. If you don't have one, or if you have forgotten it, go to usi.gov.au/students
  • A brief statement outlining why you would like to undertake the cadetship
  • A copy of your identification (ID) e.g. NSW Drivers Licence, Passport, Australian Birth Certificate

About the program:

Certificate IV in Social Housing (CHC42215) is a nationally accredited qualification will provide foundation skills and knowledge in:

  • understanding the community housing workplace,
  • working with tenants and understanding their needs, and
  • assessing and managing property maintenance and asset development.

Scheduled during work hours, training is delivered by industry and teaching experts with specialist knowledge and skills in the community housing sector. All trainers currently work in industry, hold a diploma or higher-level qualification in their relevant field, and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

Both paid employment and training are for a 12-month period, with support provided in the workplace and throughout the course by dedicated Student Support Advisors, Mentors, Trainers and Work Placement Coordinators. Trainers will also work one-on-one with participants who require extra assistance to ensure the concepts and knowledge required are understood.

Download the Cadetship flyer
Cadetship Program - Cadet How to Apply Flyer March 2021.pdf


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22 Mar 2021

Severe Weather Warnings and Impact on Compass Operations

The current NSW severe weather event continues to threaten parts of Mid-coast, Hunter, Central Coast & Sydney. These conditions are likely to continue for the remainder of the week.  Compass manages approximately 4,400 properties in the effected regions. The most impacted areas include Wingham, Gloucester, Cessnock & Dungog. Wingham has been evacuated to the established crisis centre at the Wingham Golf Club.   

Staying Safe and Finding Help

The NSW SES website has up to date information on the current Bureau warnings and evacuation orders. More information at https://www.ses.nsw.gov.au/

The SES has also produced this useful flyer to explain when and how to get help.


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11 Mar 2021

Tenant Amnesty Offer

For the period 19 March 2021 to 30 May 2021, Compass Housing Services (Compass) is offering an amnesty on unauthorised occupants, undisclosed income or financial assets and undisclosed property ownership. This amnesty period coincides with the current rent review period. 

What does this mean?
Tenants who declare unauthorised occupants, undisclosed income or financial assets:

  • Will not have their rent backdated
  • Will not be evicted as a result of any information provided during the amnesty period

How does the amnesty work?
The amnesty will give tenants the opportunity to tell Compass about any undisclosed occupants, income or assets without risk of penalty or having to pay back money owed due to prior non-disclosure. 
During the amnesty information can also be received from members of the community, about tenants who may not be doing the right thing. In these cases, the Tenant will be notified in writing about the allegation and given the opportunity to discuss this with Compass and disclose any necessary information. If they do so, they will also be protected by the amnesty. 

What happens if I do not advise Compass about changes?
Tenants who do not advise Compass during the amnesty period may:

  • have their rent subsidy cancelled;
  • have a large debt to repay; and/or
  • face more serious actions such as termination of their tenancy

However, any of these actions can be stopped by simply contacting Compass during the amnesty period  on 1300 333 733 and asking to speak with a rent officer, or by email to reportit@compasshousing.org

Notification Requirements
Residents are required to tell Compass about any changes to their income, household members, financial assets or property ownership within 21 days of the change happening. 
This is very important because your social housing rent is calculated as a percentage of your total household income. If these changes are not declared, the tenant may be paying more, or less rent than they should.
This is not fair to other residents that are doing the right thing. It also means that there is less money available to reinvest in more social housing, property upgrades and other social housing activities.

To make a declaration
Contact Compass on 1300 333 733 and speak with a rent officer, or report by emailing reportit@compasshousing.org
Rental payments will be reassessed to take into account any changes to income, assets or household members
The tenant will be advised of their new rent amount and under the terms of the amnesty, will only commence payment of the new amount from the date of disclosure

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