Sydney Town Hall was packed with 2,500 people calling on the state and federal governments to provide more affordable housing and energy, nine days ahead of the NSW state election.

More than 200 community organisations were represented at the Housing and Energy Assembly which was addressed by members of state and federal political parties.

Rev Alimoni Taumoepeau from the Uniting Church addresses the crowd at Sydney Town Hall on housing and energy affordability. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

The event, hosted by Sydney Alliance, of which the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is a member, the St Vincent de Paul Society and Everybody’s Home, was the largest rally ever held in Sydney calling for more affordable housing and energy .

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Statistics demonstrating the dire housing situation in Australia were circulated at the gathering.

Archbishop Haigazoun Najarian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand, represented the Armenian Church at the rally on housing affordability. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Homelessness has jumped by 37 per cent in NSW and 14 per cent across Australia since the 2011 Census.

In NSW 270,000 households go without food at least once a week.

Kate Colvin from Everybody’s Home said one in three Australians are currently renters and 116,000 are homeless each night. Homelessness is at a “record-high,” she said, calling for governments to “wind back negative gearing” and “toughen up protections for renters”.

About 2,500 people filled Sydney Town Hall to demand that politicians take action on the crippling cost of living in NSW. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Politicians were grilled about the sincerity of their parties’ commitments to end homelessness and ensure cleaner and more affordable energy.

They were also urged to make commitments to do more to combat the housing and energy crisis.

ALP Senator Doug Cameron pledged 250,000 new affordable homes, with 20,000 to be provided in the first term of a Labor government.

ALP Senator Doug Cameron addresses the crowd. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Meanwhile, NSW Minister for Energy, Don Harwin, promised at least 3,000 social homes over the next 10 years.

The NSW Liberal Party was committed to halving homelessness by 2025 and having zero emissions by 2020, he said.

NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Penny Sharpe said the state Labor Party would invest 200 million to build new social housing stock across the state, an additional 40 million into homelessness services and put an end to “no grounds evictions” of renters.

Politicians sat on stage during the Town Hall Assembly and faced the heat from community members wanting strong commitments for action on cost of living. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Paul Green, from the Christian Democratic Party, said he was committed to ensuring that “renting in NSW is fair and stable” and that the CDP “stands for real solutions and real funding towards ending homelessness”

“We will hold the government accountable to reach your aspirations and hopes towards ending homelessness and housing issues,” Mr Green said. NSW Greens Housing spokesperson Jenny Leong, pledged 300,000 new social homes, that will be “one hundred per cent pollution free”, over the next ten years.

“We know that housing and energy are connected,” Ms Leong said.

Paul Green, from the Christian Democratic Party, promised to keep the government accountable in the effort to put an end to homelessness. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

A cross-section of Sydney’s ethnic and religious communities were present including the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Middle Eastern Christian communities, the Baptist Church, the Uniting Church, the Jewish and Muslim communities, the Australian Sikh Association, South Asian communities, Vietnamese, Filipinos and others.

Over 100 Catholics attended through the Archdiocese’s Justice and Peace Office.

Anyone interested in working for affordable housing in Sydney can contact the Sydney Archdiocese’s Justice and Peace Office: (02) 9307 8465 or [email protected]