NSW Pledges to Halve Rough Sleepers by 2025
18 February 2019 at 5:14 pm
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has vowed to halve the number of people sleeping rough across the state by 2025, but homelessness advocates warn this cannot be done without an urgent injection of social and affordable housing.
Berejiklian signed an agreement to reduce rough sleeping numbers alongside the City of Sydney and other service providers last Wednesday, as part of an Institute of Global Homelessness program.
She said the government had already invested $1 billion in funding for homelessness services over the past four years and were now pushing themselves to do even more.
“We know that homelessness is not just a city issue, which is why we have set this target to halve street homelessness across the entire state by 2025,” Berejiklian said.
“Homelessness is a complex social issue that cannot be solved by government alone – that’s why we will be inviting the best and brightest from the frontline and from the community to collaborate with us to find new ways of tackling street homelessness.”
The Good Growth Alliance, a coalition of peak industry bodies and NGO leaders, welcomed the government’s pledge but called for a clear action plan to address the key causes of homelessness, and the delivery of 5,000 social housing properties a year over the next decade.
Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) NSW CEO Wendy Hayhurst said more social housing must be a central part of any strategy for ending homelessness across the state.
“Housing inequality and the undersupply of both social and affordable housing is the key driver of homelessness,” Hayhurst said.
“We know that NSW is short 140,000 social housing properties. Filling that gap will be absolutely critical to meeting any targets around homelessness. A capital growth fund is the most efficient means of funding that supply.”
Property Council NSW executive director, Jane Fitzgerald, said the government should go one step further by pledging to end all homelessness by 2029.
“We need all parties and all parts of government to support an evidence-based NSW housing strategy and funded action plan to increase the supply of social, affordable, key worker, and at market housing, and we need a dedicated minister for housing to drive that strategy,” Fitzgerald said.
The NSW government said its assertive street outreach program in Sydney has already housed nearly 300 rough sleepers since May 2017 with 94 per cent successfully maintaining their tenancies for more than a year.
A City of Sydney street count in August 2018 found 278 people were sleeping rough compared to 386 counted in August the year before.
Despite this reduction, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the only way to halve rough sleeping was to provide more social and affordable housing in the inner city.
“In our experience, the single most significant driver of homelessness in our city is the lack of social and affordable housing,” Moore said.
“Less than one per cent of houses and apartments built in Sydney in the past eight years are affordable. Without urgent action to provide housing in the inner city, the efforts of this initiative will simply not work.”
Sydney is the 10th city around the world – and the second Australian city after Adelaide – to sign up to the Institute of Global Homelessness’ program.
Institute chair Dame Louise Casey said the initiative helped cities set goals and strategies to reduce rough sleeping and noted that Sydney was now part of an “emerging global movement to end homelessness”.
Charities including St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia and Salvation Army have also signed up to the program.