Michael Parris reporting for the Newcastle Herald

Updated September 18, 2023 – 6:01pm, first published 4:00pm

A housing estate under construction at Fletcher. File picture

A housing estate under construction at Fletcher. File picture

The NSW government is facing calls to invest heavily in social and affordable housing and the transport infrastructure needed to unlock residential building supply in the Hunter.

Committee for the Hunter, an independent body representing council, business, community and charity groups, has repeated its call for Tuesday’s state budget to set aside $500 million to expedite 40,000 homes blocked by infrastructure delays.

Committee chief executive Alice Thompson said on Monday that the region was experiencing a jobs and population boom but new housing supply was not keeping up with demand.

“This is driving higher house and rent prices, increasing inequality,” she said.

“It is also undermining a key competitive advantage the region has over other places, impeding access to workforce and the Hunter’s capacity to meet strong job demand.

“Reforms to planning and infrastructure are under way to prevent this situation in the future, but urgent funding is needed now to reduce the backlog of homes.”

Ms Thompson said the government should release the master plan for the Hunter Park redevelopment at Broadmeadow and commit funding to its first stage, a new entertainment and conference centre.

Hunter Park has been identified as an important sports, leisure and housing hub capable of providing more than 2700 dwellings.

Community housing provider Home in Place backed calls by the Community Housing Industry Association NSW for investment in more social and affordable housing.

Home in Place business and public affairs manager Martin Kennedy said the federal Housing Australia Future Fund and new $224 million state Essential Housing Package “will not go anywhere near addressing the shortfall in social and affordable housing”.

He said Home in Place supported CHIA NSW’s call for a four-year, $6 billion NSW social and affordable housing innovation fund co-funded by the state and federal governments and community housing providers.

“Rents and house prices are continually rising across NSW, including the Hunter region,” Mr Kennedy said.

“Other rising cost-of-living pressures and no growth in real wages are exacerbating the crisis, especially for working people on low wages and the unemployed.”

The Hunter has a rental vacancy rate of 1.2 per cent and 4500 people on the social housing waiting list.

“Paying $600 per week without being in housing stress requires an income of $2000 per week, or $104,000 per year, much more than the average wage,” Mr Kennedy said.

Ms Thompson said Committee for the Hunter also wanted to see streamlined planning and approvals pathways for proposed student accommodation at the University of Newcastle’s Honeysuckle campus.