Heatmaps show homelessness in Australia does not discriminate
3 August 2020 at 8:00 am
Homelessness groups warn more social housing is needed to cope with a surge in unemployment due to COVID
New interactive heatmaps have been released showing how widespread homelessness is across all parts of Australia, prompting renewed calls for more social housing.
Launched on Monday by Homelessness Australia and the Everybody’s Home campaign to coincide with the start of Homelessness Week 2020, the heatmaps highlight homelessness problems and social housing shortfalls in every federal electorate.
Rural Northern Territory, inner-city Sydney and Melbourne, and Far North Queensland were among the areas worst affected.
Homelessness Australia chair Jenny Smith said the data showed that homelessness did not discriminate based on geographic location.
“People often think homelessness is an issue mainly in cities and CBDs, but the maps show that to be a myth,” Smith said.
“The lack of housing that people can afford is not only the biggest cause of homelessness, but it also prevents people escaping from homelessness.”
According to the data, Australia has a social housing shortfall of around 433,000 properties and about 116,000 people are homeless on any given night.
Smith, who said the data from the heatmaps was taken pre-COVID, told Pro Bono News urgent action on the social housing shortfall was vital.
“By Christmas we anticipate that more than 10 per cent of Australians will be unemployed and we have absolutely no capacity to respond to that additional demand for [social and affordable] housing,” she said.
“The government has to provide stimulus to the economy and social housing is perfect stimulus. It helps the construction industry and all the subcontractors that interact with them, which is more than 10 per cent of our economy.”
With the heatmaps broken down by federal electorates, Smith said the data could be used to lobby federal MPs for action on homelessness.
“It’s really important for MPs to understand that even in a relatively affluent electorate, there are people who are homeless and there is a need for that investment in social housing,” she said.
She also dismissed the argument often put forward by federal politicians that housing and homelessness was a state and territory issue.
“I think repeatedly saying it doesn’t make it true,” she said.
“And history tells us that following the Second World War, following Cyclone Tracy, following the global financial crisis, the federal government did increase the investment in social housing and that was vital to turning the economic situation around.”
Homelessness Australia and Everybody’s Home are this week calling on all federal MPs to sign a social housing pledge – with a commitment to invest in social housing to tackle homelessness and create jobs.
A coalition of housing advocacy groups have developed the Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP), which calls for 30,000 social homes to be built over the next four years.
Advocates say this will create up to 18,000 jobs per year.
Homelessness groups are also renewing calls for a national homelessness strategy to be implemented.
Everybody’s Home spokesperson Kate Colvin said now was the time to take action.
“We have more than 300 member organisations that will be meeting with their local MPs to discuss the numbers in their electorates and how they can support the call for urgent investment in social housing,” Colvin said.
“This data shows homelessness affects all electorates and we know social housing is the most effective solution, so we hope to see every MP sign up.”
The interactive heatmaps can be viewed here.