I attended and spoke at the first of Living in the Olympic
State Conference held in 1998. At the second conference in 1999
depressingly similar themes emerged, of a State Government:-
- underprepared in a large number of social impact areas;
- unwilling to publicly acknowledge these areas and so failing to plan
properly for them
- denying that some obvious impacts, such as huge Olympic-related rent
increases and evictions, are even happening
Shelter NSW launched a report "Ready … Set … Go! One Year
to Go - It’s time for action on housing and homelessness for the 2000
Olympics" in September 99, exactly a year out from the Olympics.
For five frustrating years Shelter has been campaigning to get the state
government to take reasonable steps to protect ordinary people from
adverse effects of the Games. Our specialty areas in the wide range of
social impacts are the fields of people’s housing or even their
homelessness. . .
Private Rental Impacts
Many people have noted the difficulty of identifying an Olympic impact
in any area, particularly house and rental prices. What is needed is a
precautionary and anticipatory approach to social impact management,
instead of a reactive approach.
The Minister for Fair Trading says that our residential tenancies laws
will protect tenants in the lead up to the Games. Let's look at the
protections he outlines. If I am a careful landlord, I can ensure my
tenant is on a lease expiring before the Games period; demand a massive
rent increase before the Games; and, if the tenant doesn't want to pay,
take my chances that the Residential Tribunal won't find the increase
excessive in relation to the overheated market forces operating before the
Games. In fact, there have only been 4 successful cases of tenants
claiming that rent increases are excessive in the 10 year history of the
It is not just the Shelter report that calls for strengthened tenancy
legislation. The consultant's report for the Department of Fair Trading
also recommended a number of legislative changes. It is not good enough to
quote selectively from this report, and hope that the predicted effects do
not take place. The government has left itself with no tools to deal with
the impact of the Games on the residential tenancy market.
The Minister for Fair Trading and his Department have not budged from
the "pretend it's not happening" stance about Olympic impacts on
renters. Their own monitoring continues to show large average quarterly
rises in rents across many key areas, but they choose to disregard the
impact of the Olympics despite the fact that the consultants doing the
monitoring note that the redevelopment associated with the Games is a
factor in rent increases.
Rentwatchers has tired of the sterile debate about what constitutes an
‘Olympic impact’, and will soon launch its own proof file of these
impacts. The file will include a number of case studies that document the
effect the Olympics is having on tenants – rent increases, threats of
eviction and growing uncertainty.
What are tenants to do if they are faced with a pre-Olympic rent
increase? State Government inaction has meant there is no effective
regulatory protection, so they do what hundreds have already had to do -
choose between paying up and going deeper into after-housing poverty, or
leaving in the faint hope of finding something less exorbitant in the
pressure-cooker of the Sydney rental market.
What will happen to the homeless?
I acknowledge the actions of the Minister for Housing and Department of
Housing (DoH) in moving to ameliorate the impacts of the Games on
homelessness. We do have a good base of a homelessness system to start
with. However, the capacity of the system is already under great strain.
There are not enough resources around to deal with the issue:
- every bed for the homeless in Sydney is full, every day. Every
category of bed – singles, families, youth, domestic violence. After
about 2 p.m. every day, the homeless know that there is no hope of
getting a bed for that night.
- more people have been turned away from Supported
Accomodation Assistance Programme (SAAP) services than have been
accommodated by them for each of the last two years.
- the greatest pressure point for services is inner city services for
single men – the Homeless Persons Information Centre (HPIC) had 900
inquiries for single men last month, more than the total inquiries it
received in 1992.
- there has been no extra money for SAAP services other than inflation
adjustments for 5 years and now small adjustment for GST (about $5
million in NSW) starting the year after next. The responsibility to
respond to this overwhelming demand has been shirked by both
Commonwealth and State governments in the negotiations that led to
- there are over 97,000 families and individuals on the DoH waiting
lists, so the prospect of significant numbers of people stuck too long
in short or medium term refuges getting out into secure and affordable
public or community housing remains slight.
This is the crisis we are facing in responding to homelessness now,
before you look at the Olympics impact.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.