‘Unacceptable:’ Government admits more housing needed for Sydney’s key workers

New rental homes for nurses, police officers, childcare workers and all critical services staff are to become a priority in the slew of new developments under way around Sydney, it was announced on Monday.
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The NSW government and the state’s land and development agency, Landcom, have outlined a new commitment to improving the supply, and diversity, of affordable rental housing for key workers.

“We have a situation where a nurse travels an hour down from the Central Coast to work in Sydney every day, and where a police officer travels an hour-and-a-half from the Illawarra because they can’t afford to live in Sydney,” the Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts said. “That’s unacceptable.

“The government recognises the need to increase the supply of affordable housing to provide homes for key workers.”

The pledge was made at the traditional topping out ceremony for the tallest building in the new $8 billion Green Square Town Centre development, the 28-storey, 224-apartment building Ovo, which will be completed next year, with settlements anticipated to start in April.

Private developer Mirvac, which paired with Landcom to deliver the tower, has already contributed $6.39 million in affordable housing levies for Ovo. But still more needs to be done, said Mirvac CEO Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz.

“We are still working with governments and the Property Council around how to build to rent but it’s very important that we all work together to improve outcomes,” she said. “A solution is still some way off.

“We all want to increase the affordable rental supply but we need a range of measures to improve the sector, like giving renters better security of tenure, so they can move when they want to rather than when their landlord wants them to, and improving amenity for them with issues like pet ownership. We are involved in collaborative discussions.” Related: Buyers pay $350 million for InfinityRelated: Green Square penthouse sets neighbourhood recordRelated: 400 ‘tree houses’ for Alexandria

Landcom CEO John Brogden also said it was vital for key workers to be adequately supplied with quality rental homes.

“It’s important to provide those workers with affordable rental homes so they can afford to live in places like this and they can then save for a deposit and gradually transition from the rental market to home ownership,” Mr Brogden said.

“This needs to be in areas like this, close to transport, and here there’s already heavy usage of the rail and bus services. There’s also lots of amenity, and if you look here there’s going to be a brand new library, parklands, an aquatic centre, the old South Sydney Hospital will be completely refurbished as a community facility and there’ll be opportunities for schools and education.”

The new Ovo tower, which had a tree craned onto its roof to show it has reached its highest point, is close to the new $8 billion town centre and the Green Square train station, and is set to be the new gateway to the area.

Designed by architect Richard Francis Jones, director of practice Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, it’s a striking ellipsoid shape, clad in 1794 panels of 134 different shapes and 17 colours reflecting the natural landscape and the colours of the other buildings in the area. It sits on a street-level retail podium precinct.

“One of the most important things about architecture is its ability to define public places and occasionally there’s a site where a building needs to be a landmark – and this is one,” he said. “All around it, this neighbourhood is now coming to life.

“As an architect, the thing you like the most really is when the building is finished and turned over to the community and, you hope, embraced by the community. This will be an urban landmark and a beautiful place to live.”

All but three of the apartments in Ovo were bought off the plan in the first two days of sale in 2015, with buyers paying $5000 for a half-hour sales appointment. Prices started from the mid $500,000s.

It will be the tallest tower permissible within the Green Square Town Centre which itself covers 14 hectares as part of the total 278-hectare urban renewal area. Eventually the partnership of Mirvac and Landcom will deliver 1668 apartments, 14,000 square metres of retail space and nearly 44,000sq m of commercial office space at the heart of Green Square.

When fully completed after 2030, Green Square’s total population could reach around 53,000.

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