Australia: NSW government calls for innovation in social housing


In 2012, the Auditor-General of NSW conducted a Performance Audit into the New South Wales social housing system (NSW SHS). The Audit Report, released in July 2013, identified serious challenges facing the NSW SHS, stemming from resource constraints, under-occupancy in dwellings, and rising maintenance costs.

The Audit Report recommended that the NSW Government urgently develop a clear direction for delivering a sustainable NSW SHS, stating that 'it is crunch time for public housing in NSW'.


On 18 November this year, the Minister for Family and Community Services published 'Social Housing in NSW: A discussion paper for input and comment' (Discussion Paper) in response to the Audit Report. The Discussion Paper sets out broad directions for reform to the NSW SHS and invites stakeholders to comment on the future of NSW SHS. The Discussion Paper's stated overall objective of the reformed NSW SHS, is to 'provide a safety net for vulnerable people, while they need it and where they need it.'

The Discussion Paper argues that the current NSW SHS is unsustainable. It highlights that:

  • tenants are staying in social housing longer than ever
  • exit rates are falling
  • waiting lists are growing larger
  • maintenance costs of the ageing NSW SHS stock continue to increase
  • the stock itself has become poorly adapted to its purpose, as tenant demographics have moved away from family-based housing to predominately singles

A compounding factor is that NSW SHS revenues have not kept pace with market rents, declining relative to growing operating costs. Significantly, the NSW Government observes that no social housing provider in NSW can fully cover its costs without accessing non-social housing sources of revenue.


To address these challenges, the NSW Government has identified three 'pillars' on which the NSW SHS reform is to be based:

  1. Pillar 1: a social housing system that provides opportunity and pathways for client independence;
  2. Pillar 2: a social housing system that is fair; and
  3. Pillar 3: a social housing system that is sustainable.


The NSW Government wants the NSW SHS to move away from what it describes as a de facto 'housing-for-life' approach. People of working age, children, and young people are identified as groups most in need of clearer pathways out of the NSW SHS, whilst a pathway out of social housing may not always be appropriate. The risk of losing stable housing and Commonwealth payments and concessions are potential disincentives to a tenant's ability to gain independence from the NSW SHS. The Discussion Paper flags the fact that there is no policy in the current NSW SHS to support easier re-entry into social housing for those who need it, hinting that this may be an area of future reform.

The NSW Government will explore opportunities to form partnerships with NGOs and the private sector in order to better link social housing products with pathways to independence. Significantly, the availability of schools, health services, jobs and access to public transport will play a large role in where the NSW Government locates NSW SHS assets going forward.


The Discussion Paper states that tenants should be expected to take care of their dwelling, to pay rent, and to make a positive contribution to their community. Both Victoria and Queensland have implemented policies discouraging anti-social tenant behaviour in their SHS's. In this regard, the Discussion Paper makes special mention of tightened eligibility criteria and the growing use of fixed term leases as tools for improving fairness and equity in the NSW SHS.

Perhaps most significantly, the Discussion Paper signals the NSW Government's dissatisfaction with the current income-based rent model which ensures that tenants on similar income pay similar rents, but fails to capture the fact that some tenants live in highly sought-after areas, or may be living in a new home. Some tweaking of the rent model therefore seems a likely reform. Other issues to address are the current inability of applicants to influence the dwelling allocation process, or to make personal trade-offs between location and dwelling type.


The Discussion Paper notes that the current NSW SHS is largely government owned and operated, and that it places little emphasis on partnerships with NGOs and the private sector. The NSW SHS is also highly dependent on Commonwealth funding, which accounts for roughly 60% of the system's $811 million budget. A number of Commonwealth reviews which have the potential to further impact on the NSW SHS, include the McClure Welfare Review, the White Paper on the Reform of the Federation, and the Review of National Housing Agreements.

The NSW Government's key sustainability concern is the $330 million discrepancy between annual rental income and the costs of maintaining and constructing public housing. To date, the Government has resorted to selling high-value social housing properties and reinvesting in inexpensive supply, to plug the gap, strategies which will not be sustainable in the long term. The Discussion Paper highlights social housing bonds, outcome-based funding models (for assets and tenancies), and public-private partnerships for delivery of new supply as potential avenues of reform. 'Delivering value for money, regardless of provider type' is to the be the catchcry.


As NSW SHS cannot be delivered by government alone, the Discussion Paper calls for 'models, innovations, or practices' relating to social housing reform which have been successfully implemented by the non-government and private sectors.

For example, the Discussion Paper notes with approval the social housing reforms implemented in Atlanta, Georgia which have focussed on transitioning social housing system away from concentrated housing estates to mixed income communities.

'Salt and pepper' redevelopments are likely to find favour – where a developer, working in cooperation with the public sector, redevelops a social housing estate whilst 'adding-on' private-housing units and community amenities. The developer will then be in a position to profit from the sale of the 'added-on' private housing units.

Overall, the Discussion Paper sends a clear signal that the NSW Government expects NGOs and the private sector to play a material role in the supply, and implementation, of the revamped NSW SHS.


Submissions in response to the Discussion Paper can be made by 20 February 2015:

via the online feedback form;

email to; or

to: Social Housing Policy Team
Department of Family and Community Services
Locked Bag 3002
Australia Square NSW 1215

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Most awarded firm and Australian deal of the year
Australasian Legal Business Awards
Employer of Choice for Women
Equal Opportunity for Women
in the Workplace (EOWA)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.