[Forum] Margaret Johnson is incorrect in saying that “affordable homes are needed” (Wyong Regional Chronicle 152) to deal with the shelter problems of low-income households.
Focusing on “affordable homes” misses the point that houses will never be made cheap enough, or be produced in sufficient quantities through the standard house-building approach, to meet the shelter desires of those who are priced out of the private housing market. The dilemma is not that housing is too expensive, but that these target households do not have the income to participate, unsupported, in the shelter access process.
They have to be subsidised, in one way or another, if we have a social goal of providing decent accommodation for every citizen. Subsidising buildings, however, is a futile policy, because it marks out the residents of those buildings as second-class citizens, reliant on public handouts, and because it physically ties the residents of those buildings to their subsidised accommodation, when they need to be mobile enough to relocate to meet changing circumstances. What is needed is to subsidise the households, so that they can behave, in the housing market, as everybody else does. This is the reason that the remit of local government should not extend to interventions in the housing market.
The problem lies outside the boundaries of local government, and uncoordinated, petty attempts by Local Governments to take up a role can never have a signifi cant impact. In fact, these kinds of efforts can be used as an excuse not to take a holistic view of the issue, which is always popular with politicians, thus worsening the overall situation and diverting efforts from what should be a concentrated attention on a national approach.
The draft strategy of Central Coast Council might be well-meaning, but it postulates a repeat of policies that have been markedly unsuccessful in the past. It assumes a level of active involvement by Council that would be uncommon for a Local Government body, and it does not begin to envision a level of ratepayer expenditure that would be required for more than a token gesture at the problem. If we follow this path, we can guarantee that the housing affordability problem not only will remain with us, but will intensify.
Email, Nov 4 Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy