Advocates call for change as social housing crisis reaches new heights
2 August 2021 at 4:21 pm
“Federal government cuts to the value of funding for social housing and homelessness have made it harder for people to get into safe and secure housing.”
While government spending cuts to housing and homelessness over the past decade are set to exceed $1 billion, new data shows that private rentals and houses are more unaffordable than ever.
Analysis from Homelessness Australia shows social and Indigenous housing and homelessness funding totalled $2 billion in 2013. Taking into account inflation and population growth, this figure should have grown to $2.7 billion, but the federal government has only budgeted $1.6 billion in 2023 – a reduction in real value of $1.1 billion.
Simultaneously, Australian house prices over the past decade have risen by 50 per cent and rents have increased by 31 per cent.
Jenny Smith, the CEO of Homelessness Australia, said it was no coincidence that the cuts have occurred alongside an increase in homelessness and housing stress, with the number of people presenting to homelessness services increasing by nearly 15 per cent since 2013.
“Everybody needs a home, but rising house prices and rents over the past decade have pushed more and more Australians out of housing and into homelessness,” Smith said.
“Federal government cuts to the value of funding for social housing and homelessness have made it harder for people to get into safe and secure housing they can afford when they are pushed out of the rental market.”
Smith said that the high cost of rent and women escaping domestic violence were the biggest issues driving homelessness in Australia, issues that could be solved by building more social housing.
“Building more social housing would mean every Australian could have an affordable home, we could end homelessness, and people on low incomes would no longer be forced into housing stress or overcrowded homes,” she said
“[It] would also provide safe housing options for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence, many of whom now get trapped in homelessness because they can’t compete in the private rental market.”
Homelessness groups push for a solution
The release of this analysis marks the start of national Homelessness Week. A number of organisations are using the event to push for a solution to the country’s growing social housing crisis.
St Vincent de Paul Society (The Society) is calling for at least 650,000 new social homes, while community health NFP co-health has thrown its support behind the Everybody’s Home Campaign – which has long called for an overhaul to Australia’s social housing system.
National president of The Society Claire Victory said that with private rentals soaring to unaffordable prices, it only took one serious life event to throw someone into homelessness.
“Homelessness is no longer that stereotypical person sleeping rough,” Victory said.
“It’s people like you and me, just one life event away from a devastating change in circumstances – illness including mental ill health, relationship breakdown, loss of a spouse, domestic violence, or the loss of a job.”
She said that The Society had repeatedly called for the federal government to set up a $10 billion social housing fund and a 30-year housing plan to boost state and territory efforts to address the chronic social housing shortage.
“Without a significant investment, supply will remain limited while negative gearing and low interest rates attract investors, boosting house prices,” she said.
“Governments have left housing to the market and the market has failed.”