27th January 2021
By Katherine Everest
A new housing estate being progressed in Forbes, recently coined Goldridge Estate, is set to help manage the growing population in Forbes, however will have no social housing properties included in it despite there being a major need for it.
Councillor Steve Karaitiana of Forbes Shire Council is pushing for more social housing in Forbes however has so far come up against resistance within council.
“As far as community housing goes, that is not our responsibility, and it is a difficult one. We are not in a financial position to take up social housing,” said Mayor Phyllis Miller.
In particular Councillor Karaitiana has been trying to include social housing development on Goldridge Estate, which is to be developed next to the Jemalong Retirement Village on the corner of Edward Street and Bogan Gate Road.
On a tour around Forbes, Councillor Karaitiana pointed out the block of land where nearly 400 houses will be built.
“This is where new housing is going, and unfortunately, there’ll be not one piece of social housing in it.”
“I’ve asked in council a couple of times, ‘Why aren’t we having pepper-potting included into this? With, let’s say, one in ten, at least’. And I’ve been told that the parcel of land was given to us under the proviso that there was to be no social housing up here,” added Councillor Karaitiana.
The land was donated to Forbes Shire Council by the Forbes Jemalong Aged People’s Association (FJAPA) after the group disbanded in 2019.
“We disbanded. All the money that was from the sale of the old village, we bought that paddock initially to put up the new retirement village, which is there now. Independent living units was another bit of land that we gave to Catholic Healthcare, and the land that was left we decided, because it was community money that bought the land, what better community organization is there than Forbes Shire Council,” said Alister Lockhart, former Chairman of the Forbes Jemalong Aged People’s Association.
However, a caveat included in the transfer of the land from the FJAPA to Forbes Shire Council stipulated there was to be no social housing built on the block of land.
It was included by the FJAPA as the association felt the inclusion of social housing would affect the sale value of the land.
“It’s quite a big area, and it was thought that it would be quite a long time before residential could get established. And it was thought there might be some social housing that might pull in there with caravans. And that’s what the thinking was, and it was to stop that from happening because it would make the rest not sell well if there was caravans,” stated Mr Lockhart.
Pepper-potting is an urban housing strategy whereby, rather than clumping social housing in the one area, it is sprinkled amongst different residential areas across town.
Councillor Karaitiana is “not in favour of this social housing where it’s on top of each other” as he believes it causes a myriad of issues.
“What was happening in the 50s or 60s, it was just cheap to be able to build social housing- just buy one parcel of land and put all the houses for social housing right? But unfortunately, what it’s doing, it’s creating areas of low unemployment, or no employment. Unfortunately, houses were built cheaply, with very little insulation. And all the other social issues as far as you know, quite often they’re the areas that don’t have the good parks. If there is a park, it’s generally very limited equipment. So, they suffer that social isolation and so on.”
“What was happening in the 50s or 60s, it was just cheap to be able to build social housing- just buy one parcel of land and put all the houses for social housing right? But unfortunately, what it’s doing, it’s creating areas of low unemployment, or no employment. Unfortunately, houses were built cheaply, with very little insulation. And all the other social issues as far as you know, quite often they’re the areas that don’t have the good parks. If there is a park, it’s generally very limited equipment. So, they suffer that social isolation and so on.”Councillor Karaitiana
Speaking with a resident of Forbes on the concentration of social housing in their area who wished to remain anonymous; they recalled a story where a woman suffering from domestic violence was moved to a house in a different street in the same area, only to be moved a few doors down from a family member of the person who was the perpetrator of the domestic violence.
According to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), the state department responsible for social housing, as of June 2020 Forbes had 206 social housing dwellings, down from 213 in 2015. The latest statistics available on waiting times from the DCJ website indicate that as of 30th June 2019, there were 20 applicants waiting for social housing within Forbes, with less than five of those on the priority list. Expected waiting times for social housing within Forbes at that time ranged between up to two years, and five years.
“In the latest budget, the NSW Government has committed $812 million to build new social housing and upgrade existing properties”, said a NSW Government Spokesperson.
In his 2020 budget speech, NSW Treasurer, Dom Perrottet, stated the funding will build more than 1,200 new dwellings, and upgrade over 8,000 existing dwellings.
However, in a press release from St Vincent De Paul Society on 17th November 2020, the charity stated the funding did not go far enough, with “more than 51,000 applicants- or 110,000 people- currently on the waitlist for social housing in NSW, some of whom have waited for more than 10 years”.
As of July 2020, CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes were dealing with approximately 45 cases of homelessness in Forbes, and throughout the year had helped 120 people at risk of living with homelessness. They believe it likely their 2020 case load will increase significantly, in comparison to 2019 case numbers where 700 clients were assisted across Forbes, Parkes, Cowra and Condobolin.
Specialist Homelessness Service Team Leader for CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes, Andrew Bament, said homelessness is a serious ongoing issue in Forbes and believes there is a need for additional social housing.
“Normally when people come to our homelessness service, our goal is to get them prioritized, bumped up the top of the list. The problem is our priority listing is growing. But there’s only a small pool of properties that they can go into,” said Andrew.
“Normally when people come to our homelessness service, our goal is to get them prioritized, bumped up the top of the list. The problem is our priority listing is growing. But there’s only a small pool of properties that they can go into.”Andrew Bament, Specialist Homelessness Service Team Leader for CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes
A search for private rentals in Forbes completed on 6th January 2021 accessing realestate.com, Ray White Parkes, Century21 Central West, and Michael Robinson & Co., revealed there were zero residential properties available for rent for under $200/week.
Andrew stated many of his clients cannot afford private rentals, particularly if they are a single parent on JobSeeker.
He also pledged his support for Councillor Karaitiana’s plans of pepper-potting throughout the town, stating he believed the clumping of social housing within Forbes is contributing to a vicious cycle leaving little option for those who wish to move away from areas of highly concentrated social housing that, at one time or another, may experience issues of social isolation.
“The problem is you get a lot of people that genuinely want to improve. They genuinely want to break the cycle. [We say] ‘OK, we’ll get you a property but throw you back in the wolves’ den’. That’s the issue. That’s why Steve’s [Councillor Karaitiana] model is brilliant, because you can help break the generational cycles.”
The high concentration of social housing in the North Forbes is only part of an issue that some describe as a lack of investment in the North end of town.
“That side of town [South end] has always been a priority. I lived there as a child, and it was always like that,” said Kellie Trainor, a mother now living in the North end of town.
An example of this is Jenny Murphy Park. Situated next to Cedar Crescent, the park was donated to Forbes Shire Council by Jenny Murphy on the condition it always had play equipment in it. However, the park remained without equipment for 18 years, until Amy Shine, Director of Forbes Preschool, teamed up with Councillor Karaitiana and Council in 2018 to plan upgrades for the park, as well as hold pop-up preschools in the area.
Council installed one piece of equipment in the park in March 2019, and implemented pop-up preschools in Jenny Murphy Park and surrounding parks. Council has now secured a further $276,000 for more equipment under the Drought Communities Program, and the Stronger Country Communities Fund.
Kellie, along with forty other mothers from the area, expressed their frustrations in consultations with council surrounding the length of time the park remained without equipment. A key concern of Kellie’s was the effect the lack of equipment was having on her children’s self-esteem.
“They feel like they’re not worth anything. Because they even say, ‘How come the Rainbow Park has all that, and we don’t have that?’ The kids do feel like, ‘Why don’t we have more’? And parents have to reply, ‘We don’t have that because sometimes big people ruin things for little kids’” said Kellie.
Speaking on the issue of social housing, Amy spoke about the ramifications she sees on a daily basis at the preschool as a result of a lack of social investment, and diversification of housing within Forbes.
“It’s affecting their education. Kids are going to school on the backfoot. It affects their day-to-day functioning at pre-school, it affects their nutrition, it affects their friendships, they’ve got low self-esteem. It just affects them straight away, and then it just continues and continues and continues.”
A Service Description report released by Forbes Preschool in December 2019 outlined equity issues experienced by children in Forbes. Included within the report were statistics from the DCJ’s ‘Their Futures Matter’ Data Pack, stating in 2018 42% of children aged under five years in the Forbes local government area (LGA) were classified as vulnerable, and 49% of those children identified as Aboriginal.
The report further details Forbes LGA’s lagging position in the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) Index. The average score on the index is 1000, with scores beneath 1000 indicating LGAs are performing comparatively worse in relation to socio-economic disadvantage.
“The SEIFA index for the Local Government Area (LGA) is below average at 937, however at SA2 level it ranges from 756 to 1076. This indicates that, in addition to an overall low SEIFA score, there are pockets of high socioeconomic disadvantage and poverty in Forbes. This is borne out of experience of the staff at Forbes Preschool, who report specific streets or clusters of houses where there are noticeably higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage than the remainder of the town.”
Councillor Karaitiana has vowed to keep fighting for social change within the town, however feels it will be a challenging endeavour.
“I don’t have enough councillor support to make life changing pathways for economically challenged families. They’re more interested in industry, and population growth.”