Affordable housing needed to solve homeless crisis

Posted .

Sydney’s escalating rents and property prices have forced more people onto Sydney’s streets, with 486 people sleeping rough in the inner-city alone.

The City of Sydney’s summer Street Count saw 31 City staff and 168 volunteers, made up of residents, sector workers, students, local businesses, and 15 advisers who have lived experience of homelessness, walking the city’s streets between 1am–3am on 23 February to document the number of people sleeping rough.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the fundamental issue was not enough affordable housing, not enough supported housing for people with mental health and substance abuse issues, and not enough social housing.

“This is a tragic situation and I’m deeply saddened by the dramatic rise in numbers,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We all know Sydney is in the grip of a housing crisis, and now even middle-income earners are finding it tough to pay their rents and mortgages.

“You can’t solve homelessness without housing. We urgently need the state and federal governments to find opportunities to provide affordable housing and increase social housing with support services, which will then reduce the number of people sleeping rough.

“The City has committed $4.2 million over the next three years to help fund outreach services, support for young people, and Connect 100, which will provide housing for people experiencing homelessness in the inner city.

“Our public space liaison officers work with rough sleepers daily – staff know the individuals personally and advocate on their behalf to get them housing, Medicare and Centre link assistance and other support.”

The count is undertaken twice a year, with the numbers used to inform the City’s ongoing strategy to work with other agencies in reducing homelessness and its impacts in Sydney, and for targeted advocacy to other levels of government for more resources.

City Homelessness Unit Manager Trina Geasley said: “Crisis beds are full, services have growing caseloads and with a 10-year housing waiting-list of 60,000 people, many people are falling through the cracks.

“We need to see an increase in social and affordable housing close to the city where people have access to support services, and we need to work in partnership with the whole community to achieve this.”

While median rental prices have grown by almost 60 per cent since 2006, household incomes have only grown by an estimated 48 per cent.

According to the City’s Housing Issues Paper, 84 per cent of lower income households in the City area are in housing stress – spending more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing.

A survey of 516 rough sleepers, undertaken from 30 November–2 December last year, looked at the issues faced by people experiencing homelessness in Sydney, and found the majority of the current homeless population simply need housing they can afford with some short-term support to sustain a safe home of their own.

The survey was the largest of its kind in Australia and participants included 330 people who were sleeping rough and 186 people accessing homelessness support services. Eighty-two per cent of respondents were men, with an average age of 42.

Of those canvassed:

  • 35 were people aged 25 and under;
  • The average length of time on the street or in temporary accommodation was five years and four months;
  • The majority of people were from the greater Sydney area;
  • More than half told volunteers they were experiencing mental health conditions; and
  • A third reported brain injuries (brain injuries are likely to impair a person’s ability to keep appointments and perform key tasks).
The survey, undertaken by the City, Homelessness NSW, The Mercy Foundation, The Haymarket Foundation and Neami National, confirms the need for more social and affordable housing with support services at a time when rents are outstripping personal finances.

The City’s long-term strategy and the City’s Affordable Rental Housing Strategy (ARHS) aim to ensure that 7.5 per cent of the City’s housing stock in 2030 is social or public housing and 7.5 per cent is affordable housing delivered by ‘not-for-profit’ or other providers.

The City collects an Affordable Housing Levy on development occurring in some specified locations, including Ultimo-Pyrmont and Green Square. The levy in Ultimo-Pyrmont, introduced in the mid-1990s, has resulted in 446 affordable housing units being built in that area. The City has called on the State Government to allow it to extend this levy to the rest of the city – so far, requests have been unsuccessful.

The City also negotiates with private developers for affordable housing. For example, Mirvac is redeveloping Harold Park and the City negotiated with them to have 1,000 square metres of land set aside for affordable housing.

The City has also reviewed its property portfolio, identified land that could be used for affordable housing, and called for Expressions of Interest from potential providers.

A number of City-owned properties have now been transferred to affordable housing providers, including land at the former South Sydney Hospital site in Green Square that is being developed by City West Housing as affordable rental homes.


City of Sydney street count statistics:

  Feb 2010 Aug 2010 Feb 2011 Aug 2011 Feb 2012 Aug 2012 Feb 2013 Aug 2013 Feb 2014 Aug 2014 Feb 2015 Aug 2015 Feb 2016

People sleeping rough 418 289 363 307 310 246 274 255 346 296 365 352 486

Occupied hostel beds 470 541 477 448 451 456 463 471 446 421 462 476 404

Total 888 830 840 755 761 702 737 726 792 717 827 828 890


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For media inquiries: City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Jodie Minus 0467 803 815 or

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore: Matt Levinson 0499 319 385 or email


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