On Thursday March 14th, 1901 people converged at Sydney Town Hall to urge real change to housing and energy policy ahead of the NSW and Federal elections.
The purpose of the Town Hall Assembly was to secure new commitments to the housing and energy policy asks of the Sydney Alliance, NSW Vinnies and Everybody’s Home. For months beforehand, civil society organisations organised and advocated with political parties on these issues at state and federal levels. We negotiated with decision-makers prior to the assembly, and briefed all politicians on the questions and process.
On the night, we asked the decision-makers on stage for their public commitments. The new public commitments that we achieved are a credit to the power that communities built by being part of this assembly, and the campaign actions that led up to it.
We acknowledge that it is difficult for Governments to make new commitments while in caretaker mode, and so also recognise the existing commitments and policies of the Governments.
Here are the new and existing commitments that decision-makers stated onstage at the Town Hall Assembly 2019. Our next task is to keep them accountable to their word!
What new commitments did we secure?
- Both the Liberal and Labor Parties agreed to review minimum standards of rentals to include energy efficiency standards, and to an audit of social housing stock – a massive win for tenants across NSW.
- More specifically, NSW Labor Opposition committed to implementing minimum energy performance standards by 2025. It is easier to keep parties accountable for commitments with deadlines.
- NSW Labor Opposition also made commitments to:
- $200M to social housing dwellings in addition to existing programs;
- An additional $40M to homelessness services, 100 additional child protection caseworkers to prevent homelessness, and an additional 200 beds for women and children escaping domestic violence;
- Building a Community Energy Hub in Western Sydney, which will provide targeted and comprehensive assistance to our communities in language to address their energy needs;
- A comprehensive review of government assistance schemes AND regulation to mandate that energy companies must give vulnerable customers the best deals – a huge new commitment
- The NSW Greens also announced a plan for 300 000 new social housing homes, funded by a new state-based banks levy.
Overall, these are important commitments to real solutions that would have meaningful impact for communities struggling with housing and energy.
Existing Commitments Reaffirmed
All decisions-makers onstage reiterated existing commitments to solutions that align with our Assembly asks. While some existing programs fall short, the decision-makers have committed to working with us in the future to further our asks.
On National Housing, both Federal Labor and Australian Greens supported the Everybody’s Home Election Platform.
Federal Labor re-emphasised their commitment to:
- support the delivery of 250 000 new affordable rental homes over the next decade, including 20 000 in the first term
- reform the tax system including negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions
- appoint a Minister for Housing and Homelessness
- re-establish the National Housing Supply Council
- provide $88 million over 2 years for a safe housing fund
- treat housing as part of economic infrastructure
- use COAG to get nationally consistent policy on protection for renters
- undertake a national review of social security payments
The Australian Greens re-emphasised their commitment to:
- establish a Federal Housing Trust that will deliver 500000 public and community homes over 15 years
- ending negative gearing and capital gains tax discount
- ensuring that these homes are sustainable and energy efficient and establishing a new publicly-owned energy retailer to ensure that low income households can access low cost renewable energy
- $500 million per year for crisis and transitional accommodation
- rental reform including long term leases, ending no ground eviction and arbitrary rent rises
- $30 million for tenancy advocacy services
On NSW Housing, both the NSW Liberal Government and Labor Opposition reiterated that affordable housing is a priority for their parties.
The NSW Liberal government reiterated their existing Communities Plus and Social and Affordable Housing Funds programs to deliver 26,400 new and replacement social and affordable housing dwellings over the next 10 years. They committed to negotiating further if they are re-elected.
Furthermore, the NSW Liberal government reaffirmed their commitment to halving homelessness by 2025 and confirmed that resources will be contributed to this end. Should NSW re-elect a Liberal government, we look forward to working with them to further develop their plans for social housing and homelessness based on evidence and research.
Due to the hard work of many campaigns partners, NSW Labor Opposition had already committed to inclusionary zoning targets. Additionally, during the Assembly organisation phase, Labor re-announced that they would end no-grounds evictions, with a further commitment to do so within 100 days of forming government. 
On NSW Energy, the Labor and Liberal Parties agreed that climate change is important and requires urgent transition to renewable energy.
Both parties reannounced their programs to assist low income homes access solar. The NSW Liberal Government re-announced their commitment to assisting 300,000 households over 10 years to access solar and batteries through no interest loans. The NSW Labor Opposition confirmed their commitment to assist 500,000 households access solar through rebates.
The NSW Liberal Government also reiterated their current programs in energy efficiency upgrades to community housing. Moving forward, we will be influencing both major parties to urgently address the energy performance of social housing more broadly and ensure that social housing meet the best energy efficiency standards.
 See more at NSW government’s Future Directions Plan for social housing; see e.g. for more analysis: https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/columns/spinifex/nsw-is-overselling-its-social-housing-commitment/.