Sydney a victim of its own success - wealthy foreigners drive out locals

Sydney real estate has become the new gold bullion as foreign investorspour their money into bricks and mortar, driving out local workers on low and middle incomes, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.

City of Sydney councillor John Mant told the Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing that owning a Sydney property had become a status symbol for wealthy foreign investors.

He cited the foreign interest in Green Square as an example of the squeeze on local buyers.

“It is driving up the cost of the apartments,’’ he said.

“People want a safe haven for their investments. You can put it in gold or you can put it in a Sydney apartment. They’re not places to live in.”

The city’s thriving property market had been a disaster for people on welfare benefits or low to middle incomes who are unable to rent or buy close to the CBD, the inquiry was told.

Mr Mant said the state government decision to evict public housing residents from Millers Point to raise funds for supported housing in outer suburbs was unjust and did not recognise their "unique social capital".

The chief executive of the City of Sydney, Monica Barone, agreed, saying a strong community needed a mix of people from all backgrounds.

She said key workers such as teachers, nurses and emergency workershave been forced out of the inner city due to the rising cost of housing.

Ms Barone told the inquiry that workers earning $70,000-$80,000 a year could not afford to live within a 10-20 km radius of the CBD.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said large numbers of key workers faced increasingly lengthy commutes to get to work because they had been forced into Sydney’s outer ring.

The state’s peak union body has recommended any new large development, such as Barangaroo or Badgerys Creek, should have affordable housing for the workers employed there.

Housing Industry Association senior executive Kristin Brookfield, representing the peak housing organisation at the inquiry, rejected the idea of quotas for public and affordable housing, saying the cost should be borne by the community rather than property developers.

Gary Moore, chief executive of Homelessness NSW said the incidence and geographic spread of rough sleeping was increasing and described public housing in NSW as a ''basketcase" due to a chronic lack of stock.

The inquiry has received almost 250 submissions. The committee hopes to hold hearings in Sydney’s western suburbs before handing down its final report in September.

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