5. Affordable Housing

5. Affordable Housing

Housing is a Human Right

The NSW Family & Community Services Centre for Affordable Housing and the NSW government Ministerial Guidelines 2016-17 define Affordable Housing as:

“…housing that is appropriate for the needs of a range of very low to moderate income households and priced so that these households are also able to meet other basic living costs, such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education. As a rule of thumb, housing is usually considered affordable it if costs less than 30% of gross household income.

Very Low, low and moderate income households defined as:

  • A very low income household earns less than 50% of the relevant median household income for Sydney or rest of NSW, as applicable.
  • A low income household earns between 50% and 80% of the relevant median household income for Sydney or rest of NSW, as applicable.
  • A moderate income household earns between 80% and 120% of the relevant median household income for Sydney or rest of NSW, as applicable.”


They further define the difference between affordable and social housing as follows:

“While affordable housing has many goals that are similar to social housing, there are also some key differences, including:

  • Affordable housing is open to a broader range of household incomes than social housing, so households can earn higher levels of income and still be eligible (Refer section 8 of these Guidelines);
  • Applications for affordable housing properties are made to, and assessed by, the property manager. Applications for affordable housing cannot be made through Housing Pathways; 
  • Households do not have to be eligible for social housing to apply for affordable housing, though social housing eligible households may also be eligible for affordable housing;

Housing affordability by income
  • Allocations policy for affordable housing is different to social housing and may prioritise different target groups;
  • From time to time, community housing providers may invite eligible households on the NSW Housing Register to apply for affordable housing properties. However, this does not constitute an offer of social housing and the household can refuse this invitation, or an offer of an affordable housing tenancy, without penalty to their status on the Register (Refer section 9.3 of these Guidelines);
  • If a household on the NSW Housing Register accepts a tenancy in an affordable housing property, then they will be regarded as suitably housed and removed from the Register; and
  • Rents for affordable housing are calculated differently to social housing and there are different tenancy arrangements.”


The legislation applicable to affordable housing is generally covered by the following:

  1. “Community Housing Providers National Law

The Community Housing Providers National Law (the National Law) is an Appendix to the Community Housing Providers (Adoption of National Law) Act 2012 (NSW). It is the legislative basis for the National Regulatory System for Community Housing.                                          

The National Law prescribes the National Regulatory Code which sets out the requirements that registered community housing providers must meet when operating and providing community housing. These requirements also apply to the way providers deliver affordable housing.

The National Regulatory System for Community Housing commenced in NSW on 1 January 2014, with an 18 month transition period, during which all community housing providers currently registered under the NSW Regulatory System were to be assessed for registration under the National Regulatory System.

From 1 July 2015, all registered community housing providers in NSW must be registered under the National Regulatory System.

  1. Residential Tenancies Act 2010

Community housing providers and tenants of affordable housing properties will enter into residential tenancy agreements and must comply with the requirements of the NSW Residential Tenancies Act 2010.

The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 includes provisions which specifically cover social housing tenancies (Part 7). Under the Act, all tenancies in which a social housing provider (including registered community housing providers) is the landlord are considered social housing tenancies. This includes tenancy agreements for affordable housing properties where the community housing provider is the landlord.

  1. State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009

The aims of this Policy are as follows:

  • to provide a consistent planning regime for the provision of affordable rental housing,
  • to facilitate the effective delivery of new affordable rental housing by providing incentives by way of expanded zoning permissibility, floor space ratio bonuses and non-discretionary development standards,
  • to facilitate the retention and mitigate the loss of existing affordable rental housing,
  • to employ a balanced approach between obligations for retaining and mitigating the loss of existing affordable rental housing, and incentives for the development of new affordable rental housing, 
  • to facilitate an expanded role for not-for-profit-providers of affordable rental housing,
  • to support local business centres by providing affordable rental housing for workers close to places of work,

(g) to facilitate the development of housing for the homeless and other disadvantaged people who may require support services, including group homes and supportive accommodation”

It is also interesting to note that one of the aims of SEPP no. 36 – Manufactured Homes Estates is:

“to encourage the provision of affordable housing in well-designed estates.”

The NSW ministerial guidelines further outline the relationship with the NSW government as follows:

“Registered community housing providers and the NSW Government are business partners in the development of affordable housing, with each party contributing funds and other resources. This partnership is based on working together in a transparent, consultative manner.

The NSW Government develops policy objectives and appropriate regulatory requirements for developing and managing affordable housing. In so doing, it will be mindful of the business consequences and community housing providers.

NSW Government goals and requirements will be communicated through funding contracts, relevant legislation and the NSW Affordable Housing Ministerial Guidelines.

Community housing providers will make independent business decisions concerning the operation of affordable housing programs, which will be informed by the policies and financial requirements of the NSW Government.

The NSW Government will monitor providers’ performance to ensure compliance under specific program or project agreements, policy guidelines and through the Regulatory Code.”


Applications for affordable housing are assessed as follows;

“To be assessed as eligible for affordable housing, applicants must meet the following criteria:

8.1 General criteria

Affordable housing applicants must:

  • Be a citizen or have permanent residency in Australia
  • Be a resident in New South Wales (NSW)
  • Establish their identity
  • Be able to sustain a successful tenancy, with or without support
  • If applicable, make repayments of any former debs to Housing NSW or a community housing provider
    • In general, be 18 years of age or older”

In addition to this there are maximum income eligibility limits.

The NSW Family and Community Services Centre for Affordable Housing outline very low to moderate income earners as follows:

“People described as being on a very low income are those earning less than 50% of the NSW or Sydney median income, depending on where they live. They include workers in a range of lower paid occupations, particularly in areas such as retail or manufacturing, as well as people earning the minimum wage or who are on an aged or disability pension or other government benefit.

People earning more than 50% but less than 80% of the NSW or Sydney median income are described as earning a low income. They include many people working in jobs such as a child care worker, secretary or cleaner.

People described as being on a moderate income are those earning between 80 – 120% of the NSW or Sydney median income. They may include people working in occupations such as teaching, policing or nursing, particularly if they are in earlier stages of their careers. 

The 2011 ABS Census data found that the median income in Sydney is $1,444 per week ($75,088 per annum). For other parts of NSW it is $1233 ($64,116 per annum). These figures are updated each year.”


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