Action for Public Housing (NSW)

Action for Public Housing

What is public housing?

Australia’s first publicly owned housing was the houses in The Rocks and Millers Point purchased by the Sydney Harbour Trust in 1900. 

Under the NSW Housing Act of 1912, and the NSW Housing Board planned the first public housing estates in Australia. The then treasurer Roland Dacey said NSW was going to build a ‘garden city’  in Sydney for a healthy lifestyle.  When completed it was named Dacyville.

The federal government has always deemed public housing as a state matter and provides some funding assistance depending on the project. this has varied over time


In the 1970’s the Whitlam, through the Department for Urban and Regional Development, the minister at the time, Tom Uren, brokered deals with state and local governments on public housing.  Glebe, the Glebe Estate, and Woolloomooloo, guided by the green bans, the BLF and Jack Mundey.


In the 1980’s the Hawke government expanded the scope of public housing in partnership with state governments to include students, artists, refugees and more.


In the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s the ideology that the market not governments is the most effective way of dealing with societal matters such as housing resulted in a gradual decline in public housing construction, repairs and maintenance and an increase in the waiting list.


“dwelling completions fell from an average of 16 percent from 1945 to 1972, to nine percent over the 1980s, and down to five percent in the 1990s.”


By the 2000’s the sell off and privatisation of public housing increased significantly. Examples include the sale of public housing in Miller’s Point and the Sirius building. Woolloomooloo had the second highest number of public housing in NSW and after these sales it has disappeared from the list of areas with public housing. Privatising  public housing by passing ownership to community housing organisations has increased significantly as has the number of social housing providers.  Public housing in Australia has shrunk to four percent of all dwellings.


The NSW government combined public, social and affordable housing into one State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) in 2021.

Under the Housing SEPP, social housing can be provided by:


– the NSW Government

– registered community housing providers 

– the Aboriginal Housing Office or an Aboriginal housing organisation registered under the Aboriginal Housing Act 1998

– a local government authority that provides affordable housing

– a not-for-profit organisation that is a direct provider of rental housing to tenants



Rents in public housing is a % of a household’s income.

Rents in Affordable Housing is a % of market rent. Affordable housing remains at this rent level for 15 years. 

Rents in social housing can be either of the above and is under the tenancy legislation that applies to private rentals.


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