Community Building for Individual Successs

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-By Aleisha Parr

When you think of public housing in New South Wales, what comes to mind? For some it’s the unfortunate ghettos created from the American Radburn style developments of the seventies; or the drab public housing towers and concentrated neighbourhoods with no communal features; for others, it’s the stigma attached to public housing developments. Housing NSW is challenging you to rethink public housing, as it enters into a new phase of achievement and intelligent design, marked by community-building new developments and eco-friendly initiatives. Housing NSW not only provides safe and affordable homes for thousands of families who desperately need assistance, but also helps to support the development of a lifestyle that helps individuals flourish – and thanks to the recent State and Federal Government stimulus initiatives, it’s now able to do this at a faster rate than ever before.

From its noble beginnings assisting miners in purchasing affordable housing, through its continued efforts during the widespread unemployment of the 1920s, and into the more recent developments of providing housing for the homeless and high-risk community members, Housing NSW (previously the Housing Commission then Department of Housing) has long been a supportive presence within the state. Lack of affordable housing is increasingly becoming a priority issue for the citizens of New South Wales, with support now from the Federal Government through its $1.9 billion Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan (NBESP).

Through the NBESP, the Australian Government plans to deliver over 6,300 social housing units throughout New South Wales by June 2012, with follow-on benefits to communities by way of the creation of approximately 7,200 full-time jobs each year over the next two years. Stage 1 of the stimulus plan was successfully completed in May 2010, fast-tracking more than $226 million of pre-approved social housing developments and delivering seven hundred and fifty-two new homes throughout New South Wales. Stage 2 is underway, with $1.5 billion going toward new social housing projects and an additional allocation of $130 million from the Australian Government for the maintenance and upgrading of 31,000 social housing homes throughout the State. This represents the largest single investment in social housing since World War II.

Reports Frank Terenzini, Minister for Housing in the most recent issue of Housing NSW publication roofTops, “NSW’s performance in delivering homes under the Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan continues to lead the way for Australia and is on track to complete 75 per cent of the program by the end of December 2010. All projects are now underway and it’s very rewarding to know that well over 2,000 new tenants are experiencing Christmas in brand new, state-of-the-art homes. It’s also rewarding to know that almost half the new homes are going to people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness, 23 per cent to public housing tenants, and 12 per cent to people of Aboriginal background.”

In addition to this initiative, the State Government has also instituted two important initiatives of its own, the NSW Homelessness Action Plan and the Regional Homelessness Action Plans. As the only state in Australia to adopt this coordinated regional approach, New South Wales is able to drastically improve service delivery and address homelessness in a meaningful way.

In order to meet the heavy demands of this ambitious program of services, Housing NSW has been working through the NBESP to transfer the title of large numbers of its newly constructed properties to local not-for-profit community housing providers. This not only helps to ensure the properties are adeptly managed, but also that the social housing sector may enjoy long-term sustainability.

By teaming up with outside organisations within the state’s construction industry, the government has been able to see more projects come to pass than it previously was able to undertake on its own. Furthermore, this relationship has helped to boost the community housing sector and increase employment in the construction industry.

For its outstanding work in these areas over the past few years, New South Wales has been honoured with awards for numerous developments by the Urban Development Institute of Australia, as well as the Premier’s Public Sector Awards.

It’s one thing to increase the reach of public housing to help meet the growing demands of society, which Housing NSW is doing, but it’s an entirely other thing to do this with the high level of care, attention and compassion which the department is demonstrating through this recent work. After careful assessment of research gathered by The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), Australia’s leading housing research centre and think tank, Housing NSW determined that significant changes were in order to help nurture more progressive communities. This research showed that stigmatisation, limited opportunities and role models, and poor access to services were common disadvantages experienced in traditional public housing developments. The results of this could directly impact residents in terms of employment opportunities, education, crime, self-esteem, health, and welfare dependence, despite individual and family characteristics.

Through these findings, Housing NSW has begun to develop new approaches to redevelopment and de-concentration of social housing estates. As stated in a recent Housing NSW publication: “AHURI has found it can help address area-based disadvantage and stigma, when delivered in combination with a range of other strategies to build confidence, skills and opportunities available to residents of disadvantaged areas.” To this end, one particular area of improvement is focussed on creating a greater diversity of tenure, ultimately providing a mixture of home ownership, private rental and social housing accommodations within targeted neighbourhoods.

Housing NSW works together within these neighbourhoods to ensure community engagement and ongoing consultation in regards to redevelopment projects, and supports interventions which reflect local circumstances. This attention to individual needs and community demands should prove to be most important in determining the overall success of each project as time goes by.

The results from recent work undertaken by Housing NSW in the areas of Macquarie Fields, Bonnyrigg and Dubbo can already be appreciated, with a marked transformation in both the look and feel of these communities. Community capacity has risen, with upgrades to social and recreation facilities and improved access to services and local activities. Community engagement has increased, with crime, vandalism and antisocial behaviour decreasing in areas like West Dubbo. From its straightforward beginnings through to its modern approaches and proactive community planning initiatives, Housing NSW continues to provide the stellar support and services essential to building a stronger and more powerful New South Wales.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 14, 2020, 2:52 PM AEST