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Rate rebates needed to address homelessness in city: councillor

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Adelaide City Council should consider introducing a new affordable housing rebate to address a scourge of homelessness in the city, area councillor Robert Simms says.

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Simms told InDaily this morning he would move a motion at Tuesday night’s meeting calling for the council to investigate ways it could increase its affordable and social housing stock in the city.

Social housing comprises both public and community housing and is used to accommodate people on low incomes or those who rely on income support payments. Affordable housing provides a reduced rental arrangement for people who are struggling to enter the private rental market.

Housing advocates have long called for an increase in affordable and social housing stock in Adelaide following a spike in rental prices and growing cost of living pressures.

Simms, who entered last year’s local government elections promising to address housing affordability, said homelessness had become a “huge issue” for Adelaide.

He said introducing a new housing rebate aimed at encouraging developers to dedicate a greater proportion of their builds to affordable and social housing could help address homelessness in the city.

“If a developer is going to be building an apartment block in the city, for example, what we could be saying is that as a council we would give them a rate rebate if they include more affordable housing in their plans,” he said.

“We know the State Government has a target of 15 per cent affordable housing for new developments but that isn’t translating to having enough affordable housing stock in the city.

“Having some sort of rebate or incentive would put an added incentive on developers to actually look at this seriously and for council to show some leadership in this area.”

In 2017 the city council introduced a five-year rate-free period for both owner-occupiers who purchase “off the plan” dwellings and for owner-occupiers of residential dwellings that have been transformed from C and D Grade office buildings.

But Simms said that scheme hadn’t resulted in a big take-up from property owners.

“From my understanding council did introduce a rate rebate incentive for people buying off the plan a couple of years ago but from what I’ve heard there hasn’t been a huge take-up,” he said.

“What we should be doing now is looking at new ways to keep the momentum going.”

Simms said the council could also consider introducing a rate rebate to incentivise homeowners to sign up to the “Homes for Homes” initiative, which is run social enterprise The Big Issue.

The initiative encourages homeowners to voluntarily agree to make a tax deductable donation of 0.1 per cent of the sale price of their property at the time of sale.

“The Homes for Homes program was raised with me by people in the sector and it’s starting to gain steam,” Simms said.

“This would provide an exciting opportunity for people to make a voluntary investment in social and affordable housing and as a council we should be encouraging people to take part in these kinds of initiatives.”

Shelter SA chief executive director Alice Clark said the Homes for Homes program was a “good initiative”, but she said it would not adequately address the lack of affordable housing in the city on its own.

“It is just one thing in a suite of initiatives that could be undertaken to help address some of the housing issues we have in the city,” she said.

“What we are seeing in the city is there is some affordable housing in construction but rarely social housing.

“More needs to be done to encourage mixed-use residential developments, where there might be affordable private rental properties, but also public housing too.”

Clark said while housing stock was a State Government issue, it was important for local governments across the state to consider how they could create incentives for developers to build affordable dwellings in their area.

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