17 May 2024

Could Wagga's existing assets be the answer to revive affordable housing?

| Jarryd Rowley
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Wagga Wagga's deputy mayor Amelia Parkins and councillor Jenny Mckinnon

Wagga Wagga’s deputy mayor Amelia Parkins and councillor Jenny McKinnon have called on Wagga City Council to look at alternative ways to deliver housing to the city’s most at-risk people. Photo: Supplied.

According to Anglicare’s annual housing snapshot, less than one per cent of current rentals in the Riverina are affordable for people on minimum wage.

This statistic, as well as the claim by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that the lack of safe housing for women and young families has led to people re-entering abusive relationships, resulted in Wagga Wagga’s deputy mayor Amelia Parkins and fellow councillor Jenny McKinnon taking a stand.

The pair brought forward a motion to Wagga Wagga City Council (WWCC) this week, requesting that it look at ‘out of the box’ ways to deliver adequate housing to Wagga Wagga.

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“This notice of motion is asking for a report from staff into what it is that council can do to help the increase of availability and affordable housing,” Cr Parkins said during Monday night’s meeting.

“It’s asking Council to look outside the box for any options that can enhance Council’s role in the provision of affordable housing.

“This includes facilitating conversations with the vast array of stakeholders that WWCC has to see what other avenues there are to help those in the community who are doing it tough.”

Following a brief debate, Wagga City Councillors voted in favour of the motion and will now seek a report from WWCC in the coming months detailing which avenues the city can take.

A statement from WWCC following the meeting highlighted the key components the report would investigate, including:

  • A review of assets in Council’s ownership or management that staff have identified may be suitable for housing development
  • Identification of short-term opportunities for partnerships with entities such as government, developers and/or private owners to assist in addressing housing affordability
  • Identification of longer-term opportunities to assist housing providers in approaches that lead to an increased supply of affordable housing
  • Consideration of how council can broker relationships between housing service providers and the real estate, building and construction sectors to identify alternate options to reduce rental stress, and housing gaps and to increase affordability and availability of housing.

Cr McKinnon, who co-sponsored the motion, said there was a growing need for medium-term accommodation in Wagga and that for some people leaving emergency situations it was a choice between homelessness, living in cars or going back to violent situations.

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“Unfortunately, that [going back to violent households] can happen at the end of emergency accommodation situations, particularly because medium-term offers wouldn’t generally offer more rental options that are in the vicinity of two to three years,” Cr McKinnon said.

“The lack of accommodation means that we have got people in those really desperate situations, trying to get the cheapest possible rentals and the most secure accommodation that they can.

“What we’re looking for is, is council showing real leadership and really being creative?

“Is council being as creative as possible about what options we have to partner with organisations, from many different sectors around housing and construction?

“We want to think about how Council can possibly help alleviate what’s going on and ensure that there are places people can go.”

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