Australia is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis which is the direct result of our traditional political framework failing to deliver non-partisan, community centric, long-term planning.
In this context we are about to try something different in North Sydney - this is your chance to have direct input into policy development in this area. Have your say here.
The reality is home ownership is declining. Secure and affordable rental tenancies are scarce. Young people and key workers can’t find housing near where they want to live and work, and older people are finding themselves still paying off a mortgage or even on the brink of homelessness.
Last month, the Housing Australia Future Fund ('HAFF') legislation, finally passed the Senate with the Government hailing it as the “biggest ever investment into affordable housing” in Australia and predicting it will result in the construction of 30,000 new social and affordable homes.
But the truth is the policy is complicated and the implementation of this legislation alone will not solve the challenges we currently face.
Whether it is here in North Sydney, or any other corner of our country, thousands of individuals and families are struggling to make ends meet and many of them are doing it while trying to cover rapidly increasing rents, mortgages and property prices.
And while it has been encouraging to see the NSW Government’s recent announcements concerning the building of more homes, including actively encouraging the development of more medium density housing and a review of rental tenancy laws, this crisis has been building for years and it won’t be solved overnight.
Ultimately the Government actions to date represent the traditional way of doing politics – incrementally and in a largely uncoordinated way.
There hasn't been any radical or courageous thinking - our current governments want to continue to do the same thing, just hoping they get a different result.
For this reason, I’m excited that 5,000 randomly selected residents from across the North Sydney Federal electorate have this week received an invitation to register for our first-ever participatory democracy Community Housing Forum.
"What's participatory democracy?", I hear you ask.
Well, it's certainly not a new concept, with our very own former Independent Federal Member, Ted Mack, very much a champion of it.
Ted summarised it when he said:
“…government should be open to public scrutiny… elected representatives should enable people to not only participate in all decisions that affect them but ultimately find ways to have people make decisions for themselves (..and..) that a decision taken by the public as a whole will be right more often than decisions taken by an elite group …”
Sadly however, it is something we have moved away from in Australia as everyday citizens have delegated their democratic right to have input into creating solutions by placing our trust in the ability of the major political parties to use their ideology to solve problems for us.
Interestingly, participatory democracy is on the march with many countries and economies, including the EU, currently actively embracing it, and encouraging their citizens to re-engage directly as individuals in the process of political decision making and policy development for areas that affect their lives.
In this context, on October 29th, in collaboration with the team at newDemocracy, we will bring together a group of 30-40 randomly selected, but demographically representative, residents to discuss the housing affordability crisis and possible solutions to it.
Along the way, these participants will have access to experts and data to help find common ground around one big idea, which they will then present to me as an informed recommendation. From there, I will bring that idea back to my team and we will further develop it with the intention of taking North Sydney’s thinking directly to the Government.
If this sounds like something you would like to be involved in, please keep an eye on your mail and ensure you register your interest via the link contained in the invitation as soon as possible.
However, even if you are not selected for the Forum, you can still participate by submitting your ideas for the Forum participants to consider.
It might be something you’ve read about, some special expertise you have or a report you recommend we have a look at. Whatever it may be, the outcomes of the Forum will only be stronger if the participants have had the opportunity to explore the ideas of others from across our community.
By standing together and being open to creative solutions we will ultimately unlock what is one of the most urgent challenges of our time.
Send your ideas on fixing the housing crisis here