WAITING: Hundreds of families await housing across the Clarence Valley.
WAITING: Hundreds of families await housing across the Clarence Valley. Brett Wortman

400 families face 10-year wait for housing

CLOSE to 400 families on the waiting list for assisted housing in the Clarence Valley are facing waits of up to a decade, in what the NSW Council of Social Service has essentially called a broken system.

If you need a three-bedroom house in Grafton, you won't even be that lucky.

New figures from the NSW Government show little improvement to local waiting times for public housing, with three-bedroom houses in Grafton still the hardest to come by.

Down river there is a two-to-five-year wait, but those looking for one or two-bedroom properties anywhere in the Clarence Valley are looking at a 5-10 year wait for a roof over their heads.

In the Lower Clarence, there are almost as many households on the list (94) as there are available houses (102). And while waiting lists have gone up, the number of habitable public housing buildings has been reduced by at least two due to suspicious fires in South Grafton in recent months.

NCOSS Deputy CEO John Mikelsons said the figures in the Valley and throughout NSW showed new thinking was desperately needed to reduce the crisis numbers of people waiting.

According to the NCOSS there is a 59,000-long wait list statewide, which has only been reduced by 500 in the past year.

"With 89 more households on the waiting list from last year in Northern NSW, we need to start developing innovative social and affordable housing solutions, backed by funding to provide local responses," Mr Mikelsons said.

"Every community is different and we need to ensure we are not leaving rural and regional areas behind that are facing a lack of social housing that is now reaching crisis levels.

"A stable roof over your head is a basic need. We know without one, people find it almost impossible to get and keep a job, to send their kids to school or access services like health care. We need to see these numbers reduced significantly."

Mr Mikelsons said the waiting list showed the importance of a recent agreement between NCOSS, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and the NSW Government to develop a Social and Affordable Housing fund. The fund is dependent on the lease of NSW poles and wires.

"Social and affordable housing stock in NSW needs an injection of funds and new and innovative thinking to make the best possible use of those funds.

"We know that community housing providers and other key stakeholders stand ready to offer the innovative solutions the state needs to tackle the state's chronic housing crisis.

"The fund, once delivered, will be a game changer for households and families currently waiting up to 10 years for a stable roof over their heads. Secure, affordable housing ... is a crucial piece of the puzzle."

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