Right time to privatise public housing

25 January 2016

The announcement by the NSW Government that they will privatise public housing in NSW is well timed to help with private housing supply, says the Urban Taskforce.


“The renewal of public housing estates only works if they are redeveloped with a mix of private and public housing, with densities three times the existing,” says Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson. “Greater densities are now part of the swing underway in Sydney from a suburban model to a more urban city so the timing is right for the renewal. Increasing density also ensures that this model of housing provision stacks up financially, and will attract private sector investment.”

“The timing is also right to help with Sydney’s housing shortfall, despite the buoyant market. There are signs that housing development is tapering off so the release of large parcels of government owned land for new housing will help provide new sites for redevelopment and more housing supply to the market.”

“While a split of one third public housing and two thirds public housing will be necessary economically for the private sector to make projects work this split is also desirable socially. Studies have proven that large housing estates comprising only of social housing tenants can entrench social and economic disadvantage for the residents of these estates. Around the world the trend is towards mixing private and public housing as in the redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle Estate in London by Sydney developer Lend Lease.”

“A good case study of how an integrated private/ public housing precinct can be developed on government owned land is the Washington Park precinct at Riverwood by developer Payce where existing substandard public housing units were demolished and the same number rebuilt as part of a mixed development with around 70% of the development being market based private housing. A visitor to the precinct would not be able to distinguish between the public or private housing.”

“The new look private/ public housing precincts will need to have taller buildings than at present. They will need to become new models of urban apartment living and of medium density in a similar manner to the way Sydney is evolving. This is a win-win situation for all stakeholders – the State Government’s ageing social housing assets will be renewed with minimal cost to government, public housing tenants will benefit from new housing in a re-invigorated urban precinct and the financial feasibility of this model attracts private sector investment.”

“An important component of the announcement is that 35% of the public housing will be transferred to the community housing sector. Organisations like St George Community Housing, who look after the Washington Park public housing, have become very skilled in managing public housing tenants and in providing affordable housing generally.”

“The development industry is keen to contribute to the exciting renewal of public housing estates across the state and to help create new blended, mixed use urban communities.”

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