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Think Local

Life on the peninsula conjures images of bare feet and a beachy lifestyle.

But living in paradise increasingly comes at a cost, with over two thirds of households now in 'housing stress', meaning they are spending over a third of their income on accommodation.

The housing affordability crisis is back in the headlines, with the new NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian branding it the state's biggest challenge.

Nowhere is the situation more acute than in Sydney, which is reportedly the second most unaffordable city on earth, where the median house price is $1.1 million.

A recent report by Bankwest found it would take a couple an average of approximately 8.4 years to save a 20 per cent deposit on a median-priced Sydney home.

The impact of skyrocketing property prices is felt across the age brackets - from young families trying to buy their first home to older renters and those on fixed incomes.

In December last year, Northern Beaches Council released an analysis of housing affordability, which draws on 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

The report concludes only three per cent of properties for sale in the former Manly local government area are affordable to households earning $80,000 per annum.

The report suggests the state of play is driving people -particularly those aged between 24 and 44 - to relocate to Ku-ring.gai, Hornsby and the Central Coast.

Increasing housing supply is often touted as the answer, but the report concludes this has limited impact - most of the 1648 dwellings built in the past four years are "beyond the reach of most low to moderate income households".

Northern Beaches Council has set up a strategic reference group to come up with ideas for the upcoming affordable housing policy.

The group Is looking at ways to boost the supply of affordable rental housing.

Former Warringah mayor Michael Regan is steering the group and he says an important focus is assisting "key workers" like nurses, police and childcare workers who can't afford to live in the area but hold 15 per cent of the LGA's local jobs, according to latest Census data.

One idea is to designate affordable rental housing in major rezoning areas, such as mandating 10 per cent of the 3400 homes to be built in the Ingleside land release and 2200 in the Frenchs Forest redevelopment, he says.

Another idea is for the council to buy apartments or build its own on civic land to lease to housing providers.

One question being discussed is how much will people be allowed to earn to be eligible?

Currently, there is a state government framework that sets the eligibility criteria. There are two measures: whether a person qualifies for the outdated National Rental Affordability Scheme (currently set at $48,527 for singles and $67,091 for couples) or earns a gross income of under 120 per cent of Sydney Statistical Division's median household income.

Regan believes these ideas will require community support.

"The first step will be educating the community about the difference between affordable housing and public housing," he says.

John Aspinall, design director at Urbaine, wants to bring a novel affordable ownership model to the peninsula in partnership with governments.

The UK-registered architect and Manly resident says he could deliver one-bedroom, strata-title units on public land to sell for $180,000 for buyers who meet income thresholds. The company would control resale value - keeping it low and linked to inflation.

Andrew McAnulty, CEO of LINK Housing, which manages around 250 social and affordable rental dwellings on the Northern Beaches, praises the council for considering how to leverage on major rezoning for the public good.

Mr McAnulty says when it comes to affordable housing, Sydney lags behind.

Local's housing dream out of reach

Grace Hill has lived in Freshwater most of her life, but says she will never be able to afford to buy there. For the past seven years, she's been shelling out roughly half her income in rent for an apartment for herself and her son.

Grace rents a two-bedroom unit where she runs a hairdressing business, working between 40 and 60 hours a week.

Working long hours “leaves me feeling like a bad parent having to work so much to keep up with bare basic needs." she tells Peninsula Living.

But moving to a cheaper pan of Sydney Is not an option.

“The thing about leaving Freshwater is I'm leaving a clientele base; she says.

“If I went out west, or on the Central Coast, I would be starting from scratch and getting that clientele takes time."

Buying into the suburb is also not an option.

I would love to buy and could afford the mortgage, but having that deposit is impossible,” she states.

I won't stay in Sydney for a long time," Grace concludes. 'I'll stay here while my son is growing up and spending half his time with his dad. As soon as he's 18, I'd say I would move away and buy somewhere.”


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