August 13 - 19, 2023: Issue 594


Rob Stokes Appointed Chair of Faith Housing Alliance to Address Housing Crisis

Rob Stokes with Rose Thomson Chief Executive Officer of FHA. Photo: FHA

On July 18 2023 it was announced the former New South Wales Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport has been appointed as the new Chair of Faith Housing Alliance, the peak body representing community housing providers, organisations and individuals united by a faith mission.

"Housing and planning reform have been key themes across my 16 years in politics, and as Chair, I intend to be a clear voice for housing justice," said Mr. Stokes.

"The lack of stable and safe social and affordable housing in NSW and across Australia has been at crisis levels for some time, but now with rent inflation affecting both cities and regional areas, rebounding migration and the soaring cost of basic living expenses, hundreds of thousands of households are at risk.

"Member organisations with a faith-driven purpose, like Anglicare, Muslimcare and Wesley Mission, are committed to providing more than just a roof – and they have experience developed over generations of supporting individuals and families with wrap-around services that make tenancies sustainable and break the cycle of homelessness.

"Community Housing Providers with a faith mission are already making a significant impact, with four of our members responsible for delivering 65% of the housing under the NSW Social and Affordable Housing Fund. Amelie Housing, Anglicare Sydney, BaptistCare NSW & ACT, and Uniting NSW & ACT have co-contributed resources to make thousands of new homes feasible.

"I'm also looking forward to opening up discussions with denominational leaders about innovative partnerships should they feel called to use their land for housing justice," said Mr. Stokes.

"Housing justice means more than increasing supply – it requires a focus on shelter for all – including those who might never afford it. Efforts to rapidly scale up housing supply are stifled by infrastructure funding constraints and slow development assessment, while tax policy benefits a minority of people to purchase multiple homes while others have none. Where's the public benefit in that?

"The Housing Australia Future Fund is now stalled until October, and at a local level, Councils continue to battle negative NIMBYs, where more productive community engagement can produce housing that enhances neighbourhoods.

"Housing is consistently a top concern for Australians, but for many, it is beyond critical, as without stable shelter, lives fall apart. We've all got a part to play in tackling this crisis," Mr. Stokes emphasised.

CEO of Faith Housing Alliance, Rose Thomson, said Stokes' is a natural fit to lead as Chair.

"Stokes has been inspired by the work of our members who are at the forefront of this crisis every day. These are some of Australia's most trusted charities whose dedication is a vibrant expression of their faith, long-term commitment to social justice and building communities where everyone can thrive," said Thomson.

"Stokes, like many Australians, recognises that this issue is critical and wants to use his skills and capacities to address the housing crisis. We welcome everyone who feels passionately that housing is a human right to add their voice and be part of making a difference across our cities and regions."

Former Pittwater MP Rob Stokes is an urbanist and recognised thought leader on sustainable urban development. He served as Australia’s first-ever minister for Active Transport with the NSW Government and also served as minister for Planning, Public Spaces, Cities, Infrastructure, Transport, Education, Environment and Heritage in a political career spanning more than 15 years.

Rob is a regular columnist on cities and planning and has written over 20 articles in referred books and journals. A qualified lawyer, Rob has read sustainable urban development at Oxford and completed a PhD in planning law under a Commonwealth Scholarship. 

He was announced as a member of the Albanese Government’s Urban Policy Forum in May 2023.

The Faith Housing Alliance advocates for funding and policy support for  faith sector members to continue to provide much needed affordable rental housing across NSW. FHA work to support them in their invaluable role as community housing providers.

The organisation states ''Affordable rental housing is critical to reducing intergenerational poverty and increasing economic mobility. Research shows that increasing access to affordable housing is the most effective strategy for reducing childhood poverty and increasing economic mobility.

Housing is one of the most basic needs, and yet for many Australians it is increasingly at risk. The costs associated with the provision of housing are among the largest ongoing expenses that will incur for an individual or for families over their lifetime.

Housing is a human right.

Faith Housing Alliance is committed to building a more just society where people can thrive through access to affordable accommodation. We work to increase the supply of safe, health and affordable housing for all in partnership with our member community.''

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Government listening to experts on urban policy

May 26, 2023 announcement

The Albanese Government has appointed the Chair and members that will form the new Urban Policy Forum.

It will be chaired by Professor Barbara Norman. Professor Norman is Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Canberra, and Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions.

The other Forum members are:

  • Neil Argent – Professor of Human Geography at the University of New England
  • Rufus Black – Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania
  • Sally Capp – Lord Mayor of Melbourne and Chair of the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors
  • Bronwen Clark – Chief Executive Officer of the National Growth Areas Alliance
  • Matt Collins MPIA – Chief Executive Officer of the Planning Institute of Australia
  • Elle Davidson – Aboriginal Planning Lecturer at the University of Sydney
  • Michael Fotheringham – Managing Director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute
  • Rebecca Moore – Western Australian Government Architect
  • Davina Rooney – Chief Executive Officer of the Green Building Council of Australia
  • Alison Scotland – Executive Director of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council
  • Rob Stokes – former NSW Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport
  • Mike Zorbas – Chief Executive Officer of the Property Council of Australia.

Collectively, members’ expertise covers a range of crucial areas including sustainable development, planning, climate change adaption, urban governance, local government, liveability, migration, housing and building design.

The establishment of the Forum was announced in the recent 2023–24 Federal Budget, where the Government also confirmed it will also develop the first comprehensive National Urban Policy in over a decade.

A new Cities and Suburbs Unit is being established to deliver the National Urban Policy as well as regular State of the Cities reports, which will provide an accurate and up-to-date picture of life in our biggest cities.

The Budget also established the $200 million Thriving Suburbs Program and $150 million urban Precincts and Partnerships Program to deliver examples of best-practice investment in urban infrastructure, connecting people and communities to services and opportunities that improve liveability and inclusion.

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Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King stated, “The Albanese Government has moved quickly to establish the Urban Policy Forum – putting experts back at the heart of our cities and urban policy.

“This group of professionals will make a real contribution to the Commonwealth’s revitalised approach to urban policy, bring expertise in the urgent challenges facing our cities and suburbs.

“The people who call our suburbs home deserve cities that work for them – from affordable housing, access to jobs and services, efficient transport networks and better designed neighbourhoods.”