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Public housing sell-off cuts deep

MEDIA RELEASE: The South Australian Council of Social Service gave evidence to an SA parliamentary committee that the selling off of public housing in SA increases inequality in the state.

The Legislative Council Select Committee inquiry into the privatisation of public services is looking at a range of issues, but SACOSS' evidence today will focus on public housing, where the last 30 years has seen a massive reduction in the public housing estate, as houses have been sold off or demolished for private land sales.

“The loss of public housing in South Australia, and the appalling condition of some of the remaining stock, has deep implications – not just for those in public housing or on public housing waiting lists, but for the South Australian community more broadly,” said SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.

“Our evidence to the Committee focuses on the impact of privatisation on inequality, and it is quite clear in relation to housing that the selling off of public housing property increases inequality. It takes housing from those most in need, and sells it to those on higher incomes who can afford to buy it." - Ross Womersley, SACOSS

“This is the case even where the private housing is designated as ‘affordable’ – because it remains unaffordable to those on the very lowest incomes. The real beneficiaries of the privatisation are those in the middle or higher wealth brackets, and the big banks who will finance the mortgages to fund the purchases.

“As a case study, we looked at the new Seaton redevelopment, where 35 aging public housing residences will be replaced by a mix of public and private housing. Replacing old stock is welcome, but with only 16 of 101 new residences being social housing, this is a significant exercise in privatising public land and running down public housing stock. It is a real lost opportunity," he stated.

Key Findings

  • The outsourcing of management of public housing to community housing providers is largely designed to capture Commonwealth Rent Assistance funding, but has no impact on inequality.
  • The provision of public housing decreases inequality by redistributing income from the tax base to low-income households.
  • Government “affordable housing” sales are still out of reach for those on very low incomes, and generally transfer wealth from the public to those in middle-income quintiles.
  • The sale of public housing into the market increases inequality because returns to capital outstrip other incomes, and are mostly obtained by those with greater wealth.

SACOSS will appeared before the Committee Monday 16 August at 2.40pm. This appearance and evidence follows SACOSS' submission on privatisation and inequality.

Issued 16 August 2021