23 June 2022

Budget gives millions to address Wagga housing crisis, but is it enough?

| Anna Maskus
Start the conversation
Wilks Park on the Murrumbidgee River

Wilks Park campground in North Wagga has historically served as a refuge of last resort for Wagga citizens finding themselves homeless. Photo: WikiCamps.

Wagga can expect a wide variety of funding from the NSW 2022/23 budget, but local leaders are most looking forward to the $18.5 million in social housing support.

For Anglicare Wagga Child and Family Services senior coordinator Jasmine Woodland, the funding can’t come soon enough.

“It’s encouraging that the government is taking action, but they need to move faster,” she said.

Ms Woodland and her team at Anglicare have seen first-hand the results of rising inflation, interest rates and cost of living.

“The homelessness rate in Wagga has increased so much,” she said.

“People in Wagga who are employed with full-time jobs are living in tents.”

More emergency relief is being requested than ever.

“People who previously didn’t need financial emergency relief are now coming to us because they simply cannot keep up anymore.”

READ ALSO Inland rail, housing and federal grants all on the agenda as councils gather in Canberra

Wagga MP Joe McGirr said that since the Budget has allocated such a significant amount of money to the Wagga electorate, his office is seeking further details about how it will be allocated.

The Independent Member for Wagga said he was unsure where the funding would go, noting “my office is waiting on more detail about what will be involved at this stage.”

“I’m hopeful that the Tolland Renewal Project will receive some of the social housing funding – the project is directed towards that,” he said.

The Project, for which planning began in 2020, aims to deliver affordable social, private and specialised housing alongside enhanced open spaces and other community infrastructure to the central Wagga suburb.

READ ALSO ‘Climate change, integrity and status of women’: McGirr reflects on the federal election and the rise of the independents

Ms Woodland said while it was great to see support for first home buyers, homelessness is an element of the housing crisis that is too easily forgotten.

The most current Australian Bureau of Statistics data on homelessness in NSW is over five years old. Between 2011 and 2016, the state saw a 33.8 per cent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness.

In the Murrumbidgee region, this increased 6 per cent in the same five-year period.

“This is becoming a rapidly increasing statewide problem and we need this money now more than ever – we need this money yesterday,” Ms Woodland said.

“For anyone lucky enough to have or be applying to buy housing, this part of the population is often unprepared or does not understand the implications of rate hikes. They are also people who will potentially need financial counselling and emergency relief.”

READ ALSO Consultation begins to make councils more resilient against disaster

Dr McGirr described the funding Wagga has received from the Budget as a broad injection of additional support for improving the housing sector as a whole.

“It will help speed up approvals, shared equity schemes, cover changes to stamp duty and allow us to develop a program of homelessness support,” he said.

“It’s going to enable a whole package of measures for Wagga.”

The NSW state election scheduled for Saturday 25 March 2023 means the Perrottet Government’s budget is “definitely a pre-election budget and a reform budget” according to Dr McGirr.

“Although these are big figures, the public should understand they will be spent over a number of years, up to a decade in some cases, so in some cases we won’t see immediate changes,” he said.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.