THE City of Sydney hopes to raise almost $1 billion from an affordable housing levy that would be applied on all major developments. The move, which would require State Government approval, has infuriated developers, who would be forced to pay an extra $185 per square metre of newly developed apartment, office, retail and industrial space. For an average two-bedroom unit about 100 square metres in size, developers would incur an $18,500 levy. For an office block in the CBD, the levy would run into millions of dollars. The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said having a large stock of affordable rental properties was vital to ensure key workers on low to moderate incomes, such as cleaners, teachers and police, could live in the inner city. "A dynamic and healthy city contains a mix of accommodation types - not a segregated city with an increasing gulf between the haves and the have-nots," Cr Moore said.
First question: why do we need cleaners, teachers and police to live in the inner city? Why? Why, why, why? How many police work in the CBD? Maybe 40 or 50 down at the Central Police station (not to be confused with Central railway station). How many actually want to live in the CBD? How many have families, or like a bit of backyard, or like to surf, and actually want to live anywhere but near where they work? As much as I like working in the city, I don't want to live there. I want to live somewhere else. I want some variety in my life.
How many schools are there in the CBD? I only know of one, St Andrews. It needs maybe 50 teachers, and the same applies to them - how many want to live in the CBD?
And cleaners. Why the fuck do cleaners need to live in the CBD? Can anyone give me a plausible reason why we need a single cleaner to live near Town Hall? It's just patently ridiculous!
City West Housing, an organisation that manages about 500 affordable housing units in Ultimo, Pyrmont and Green Square, leases its properties to people earning below $28,000, between $28,000 and $45,000, and between $45,000 and $77,000. A similar model would apply under the council's proposal. Only about 1 per cent of the city's housing supply is available under an affordability scheme. The council hopes to increase this to 7.5 per cent by 2030, an additional 8000 new dwellings. Rents would be set at or below 30 per cent of household income. The affordable housing levy, which would raise $934 million, is expected to create 2000 of these properties. A further 1000 would be developed through partnerships between the council and state government, while the remainder would be created through university student housing projects and state and federal government schemes.
Next question - how many teachers and police earn under $28,000 per year?
Answer - none.
How many earn between $28,000 and $45,000?
Answer - not sure, but probably none. When it comes to Police, remember all the overtime and shift allowances and things they can get.
In that case, who will these properties really be rented to? I bet they will end up being rented to Clover's favourites - artistes and the like. In other words, we won't be subsidising "essential" workers, we'll be subsidising people who are essentially wankers.
I don't think Clover should be trying to discuss economics.
Cr Moore said it was a misconception that the cost would be passed on directly to the consumer.
"In any property market, any rational developer acting to maximise profits will charge the maximum sale price that the market will allow irrespective of the introduction of a levy," Cr Moore said.
In short, this is madness. How better to bring development in the city to a halt than to endlessly load costs onto developers.
If there is a need to house Police in the CBD, then that is really a matter for the Police Force. If they think it is necessary, they can go onto the open market and rent or buy properties for use by policemen and women, at a suitable discount. If the Sydney City Council wants cops to live in the CBD, then the council should rent or buy properties for the plod - and that cost should be met by ratepayers, who will presumably be "demanding" locally based cops.
I bet if you put that proposal to ratepayers, there would be a riot. I can't think of many that would want to pay higher rates to house cops in the CBD - assuming any cop wanted to live there. Have you ever considered that maybe they like escaping to places like the Central Coast when their shift is over; that they like to get away from the drunks and the bums and the traffic and the noise and relax somewhere that is miles away - and in a house with a big backyard and a boat, rather than a rabbit hutch 30 floors above ground. And do you think that "green" Clover will allocate a car space for them? You must be joking!
The police and education departments have long provided housing for their staff in remote areas. The railways used to do the same - remember the term "stationmaster's cottage"? Posties probably got accommodation at the post office. Mining companies all provide their staff with minesite housing. It's just part of the cost of doing business or providing the service. If servicing the CBD is more expensive, then the departments can make their own arrangements. It's a bit rich for Clover to think that she knows what every cop, teacher, nurse and cleaner wants or needs.
Clover seems to be ignorant of the fact that cheap transport has opened up entirely new horizons to the population as far as housing options are concerned. In the old days, when transport was expensive, the poor crowded into slums close to the city because the only affordable way of getting to work was to walk, so they lived within walking distance of their place of employment. Because accommodation was expensive, they crammed into small apartments like Asian students.
Today, there is no need for say a low paid cleaner to live within walking distance of the office block that they clean. They can live 30km away, where it is much cheaper to rent or buy, and commute to work. The essential thing is to make that commute fast and cheap and easy. Clover hates the idea of people driving into the city, so that has been made impossible. The trains stop running at midnight, so if you are a cleaner doing a 6pm until 2am shift in Town Hall, you are slightly stuffed if you live 20km away. Buses are few and far between. The only reason they might need to live in town is because Clover has killed off the cheap and easy parking that these workers need.
And let's say you are a cleaner. Go have a look at the jobs for cleaners on Seek. They pay up to $25 per hour plus weekend penalties and the like, or over $40k plus super for a fulltime job. Cleaners are not exactly on the poverty line. What is so special about cleaners that they should live in the CBD, courtesy of a subsidy from other CBD residents, instead of living out where I am, or further out?
It's madness. Apart from artists, I predict that these 2000 or so cheap dwellings will also be used to house council employees, who will be classed as "essential". Yes, traffic wardens will become essential, and thus allowed to suck on the tit at our expense. And Clover will have a few thousand more votes in her pocket, making her Mayor for Life.