High price of housing causing homelessness

by Julia Corderoy10 Sep 2014
The drastic shortage of affordable housing is causing an increase in homelessness, according to peak community bodies.

HomeGround Services CEO, Dr Heather Holst stood up at the Senate Inquiry into affordable housing yesterday, urging policy makers to take action to increase the supply of affordable housing.

“Low income earners are being pushed out of the private rental market at an alarming rate and social housing options are shrinking,” she said.

Secure, affordable rental accommodation offers families and individuals opportunities to save money and engage in local communities, according Holst.

“Tenants in housing stress have no chance of saving a deposit towards home ownership. When a person is in a constant state of housing crisis it also makes it difficult to participate actively in social and community activities.”

The social and economic costs of not acting on the affordable housing crisis are high and will be prolonged if action isn’t urgently taken to make sure every Australian household has access to a safe and affordable home, according to Holst.

“If we act now to increase the supply of affordable housing options and prevent more people falling into homelessness we can make significant economic and social gains in health, justice, education and welfare sectors. This will provide benefits to those currently affected but also to the next generation and beyond.”

Sarah Toohey, policy and communications manager at the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) has also expressed concern over the link between housing affordability and homelessness.

“As property prices boom and more people stay renting, there’s greater competition for every property on the rental market. People on low incomes end up either paying more than they can afford in rent, or in marginal housing like rooming houses, caravan parks or without a place to stay at all,” she said.

CHP – who also spoke at the Inquiry yesterday – says that social housing funding has been in chronic decline, with federal funding today calculated to be $500 million per year less than it was in 1996-97 in real terms.

“Our sector has to help more people with less housing as funding falls behind the pace of inflation. There is a nationwide black hole of $500 million per year and it’s costing vulnerable people a roof over their head,” she said.