Lack of Affordable Housing in the Jewish Community
25 January 2017 at 3:39 pm
Issues being raised by Victoria’s homelessness and housing organisations parallel the experience of being on the front line of the current affordable housing crisis in the Victorian Jewish community, writes Hugh Cattermole and Melinda Kidgell.
Addressed in Pro Bono Australia’s article on 18 January, NFPs Warn Moving On the Homeless Does Not Make Them Disappear, the open letter signed by 36 funded Victorian homelessness, housing and social services organisations is a powerful commentary on the root causes and stigma surrounding homelessness.
Jewish Care is an unfunded provider of housing services to our community. Jewish Care addresses the root causes of homelessness, and provides transitional housing support to those experiencing homelessness, or those at risk of homelessness.
Each issue raised in the letter parallels the experience of being on the front line of the current affordable housing crisis in the Victorian Jewish community. We also urgently need more housing – the numbers just don’t add up.
There have always been long waiting times for public and community housing, however what we have seen escalate in the previous 12 months is the numbers of people in the Victorian Jewish community being squeezed out of the private rental market. This has had a significant impact on the poor and those on a fixed or low income.
Over the past four weeks alone, Jewish Care has supported seven families and three individuals who have had their private rental agreements terminated, having received notices to vacate due to market-driven conditions (rent increases in a competitive market, renovation, redevelopment and sale). Once these families and individuals are squeezed out of private rental, in many instances they will not be able to compete for the very few affordable rental properties still available within the community.
In the current market, those who have private rental arrangements or who are sustaining mortgages are paying 50 to 55 per cent of their income on their housing costs, which leaves limited funds to meet basic material needs of food, education, clothing, gas, and electric. Housing that is deemed “affordable” is at 30 per cent of one’s income.
In the absence of having additional affordable housing stock, we simply will not be able to keep up with the growing need.
Jewish Care has limited stock of available housing and provides interim support until much-needed, long-term accommodation is made available. In particular, the letter draws observation around rejected offers of accommodation. We believe this is especially relevant given the needs of the Jewish community. Unsuitable offers do little to alleviate the long-term issues and can in fact compound them. We know the strength of our community partly stems from the proximity to vital infrastructure that supports our connections. Access to schools, synagogues and community groups/hubs are all examples of this, and where an offer is made that is not supported by this infrastructure it may be incompatible for our community members in need.
Until now, there hasn’t been a more acute need for change in the community. When private rental properties have become unaffordable, and public housing is unavailable or unsuitable, the solution for housing the Jewish community at the scale and in the timeframe required will only come from the community.
We need to invest thoughtfully and proactively in housing options that address all parts of the housing continuums, which must include both the direct provision of social and affordable housing in the heart of the Jewish community, and considered interventions that address the social impact of the current private rental market.
Jewish Care welcomes the Victorian Government’s commitment of over $600 million towards social housing and homelessness support, and will continue to advocate for the needs of the individuals and families in our community.
About the authors: Hugh Cattermole is Jewish Care’s chief operating officer and Melinda Kidgell is Jewish Care’s program manager, client services.