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Private Members Statement - Wakehurst Electorate Housing Affordability

It is a sobering fact that Sydney has the second-most expensive housing in the world, outstripped only by Hong Kong. Runaway house prices over recent decades have and will continue to reshape our society, exacerbating inequality and making life harder for many.

Personal wealth and quality of life no longer depend on education and hard work but are more of a lucky dip based on parents' wealth. It is a very different Australia to the one that most of us and our parents grew up in. A stable long‑term home gives a sense of belonging, giving a base from which to participate and contribute to the world. New research this week found that fewer than half the children born in Sydney today will ever be able to buy a home here. We are robbing our young people of this foundation for a good life. While there are some massive winners from sky‑high property prices, we lose collectively.

The psychological toll of this housing precarity is very clear in feedback from my constituents. The northern beaches is a desirable place to live, and property prices reflect that. For key workers on average incomes—teachers, nurses, bus drivers and cleaners—the strain is particularly stark. But people of all occupations are under increasing pressure, having to work more hours, move away from family support and constrain non‑working parts of a happy, fulfilled life, such as volunteering to coach your kids' sports teams. In the face of this reality, I commend the New South Wales Government for making it clear that facilitating more housing, and more diverse housing, is a top priority. But it is not the only solution to the housing crisis that we find ourselves in. Many issues are creating this problem. Supply is an important one, and I do not deny that, but it is not the only issue.

We all understand the political convenience of the emphasis on increasing supply. Clearly, high rates of immigration, and Federal tax settings that make owning property more about wealth accumulation than home creation, are fundamental drivers. The State Government does not control those levers, but it should not be silent on them. Increasing supply is not the only solution, but it is critical, as is infill development, which increases density in strategic locations. It is important that I address that because the Government has made it a clear priority. I support the intent of the proposed State environmental planning policy [SEPP] currently on exhibition to increase low‑ and mid-rise development in residential zones. I make it clear that I support the intent. Many people want to downsize from big houses into either large apartments, terraces or villas. It is not just downsizers but small families and executive couples, for example. I have had many people approach me over the years about wanting to have a duplex on their property to allow their kids an opportunity to remain in the area or to house their folks in retirement.

I understand the Government's desire to act decisively to bring on more dwellings as soon as possible, but the enthusiasm must not recklessly ignore core principles of effective strategic planning. The blanket, one‑size‑fits‑all approach currently being proposed to lift density across R2 and R3 zones is unacceptably blunt. As currently proposed, I cannot support the reform. If fully, or even partially, utilised in my area, the changes will result in a population increase in my electorate and local government area far in excess of the pre-existing housing target for the northern beaches, which was 12,000 dwellings by 2036, based on the judicious strategic planning by the Greater Cities Commission set out in the North District Plan and reflected in the 2021 Northern Beaches Local Housing Strategy.

Last year I voted in support of keeping the Greater Cities Commission because of its district-based strategic planning, which was very valuable and thought holistically to set a vision about environmental, social and economic outcomes over the long term, tailoring growth to local geography and infrastructure capacity. The constraints on further housing density and population increases on the northern beaches are not ideological but based on very material infrastructure limitations like roads, public transport, sewerage, water, schools and sportsgrounds. There are well over 100,000 dwellings on the peninsular, but infrastructure has never kept up. Whether it is the poor planning of decades past or politics, you name it, we have copped it. But we still live in the best part of the world, the insular peninsula.

With the Beaches Link tunnel being cancelled, the capacity for the northern beaches to increase housing is limited. With no tunnel, the 6,000 dwellings planned around the Northern Beaches Hospital is now just 2,000. The uplift of housing in Brookvale is capped at around 1,300 instead of over 3,500 dwellings until the intersection outside Officeworks is upgraded. Any increase in population must come with funded infrastructure planning to accommodate growth, as it should across all local government areas and electorates. It is lazy politics from both sides to dismiss the individuals, local councils and community groups that are thinking critically about these reforms as selfish nimbys. The proposed reforms will touch the lives of millions of people, creating the built environment where people will live, work and play for decades to come. I urge the Government, through its consultation on the proposed SEPP, to listen and work with Northern Beaches Council and other councils across the State to deliver increased density in strategic locations, consistent with infrastructure constraints, such as on our beautiful peninsula and, ideally, via the soon-to-be-updated local environment plan.

Mr GREG WARREN (Campbelltown) (18:36): I acknowledge the contribution of the member for Wakehurst and thank him for his advocacy for his community. I also thank him for his collaboration with the Government. He knows that whether it is the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces or the Minister for Transport, the Government is committed to finding a balance and reducing the disparity between the investment in infrastructure and urban planning. All members are experiencing that in their electorates as population continues to grow. I have only one correction: I am not sure about this "best place in the world" peninsula. It sounds like it is nowhere near Campbelltown. Other than that, I thank the member.

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