Can we solve Australia’s housing crisis? Launch of an ambitious plan to eradicate rental stress and reduce homelessness

Homelessness Australia has launched an ambitious plan to address Australia’s housing crisis.

The plan would halve the number of residents suffering from tenancy stress within five years and end it within 10 years.

It would also halve the number of people who repeatedly turn to homeless services.

They call on state and federal governments to invest in 50,000 homes a year.

This would include investing in 25,000 affordable rental units each year for low-income people and another 25,000 social units.

The chair of homelessness advocacy group Australia, Jenny Smith, said homelessness could be gone within a decade.

“The federal government has the ability to tap into institutional investors like pension funds,” she said.

“Our pension funds are investing in social housing in other countries, but the parameters for them to do so in Australia do not exist at this time.”

The proposal prioritizes ending homelessness for Indigenous peoples as well as women and children, who are overrepresented among the 116,000 Australians who are homeless each night.

“The biggest driver of homelessness in our community is women and children fleeing domestic violence and the choice between violence and staying with it or escaping that violence into poverty,” Ms Smith said.

Homelessness Australia is calling on the federal government to increase the annual $1.3 billion allocated to states for housing and tie it to the implementation of the plan.

Ms Smith said it would ultimately save money, given that homelessness would cost at least $670million a year.

In a statement, Housing and Homelessness Minister Julie Collins reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to its own National Housing and Homelessness Plan, which includes acute crisis accommodation for victims domestic violence and support for housing and Indigenous veterans.

The government’s main pledge is a $10 billion housing fund, providing 30,000 social and affordable homes within five years, significantly less than the plan announced by Homelessness Australia.

Ms Collins acknowledged that there was a lack of social housing.

“We are short of at least 433,000 social housing units today and this need will only grow,” she said.

“We will see an investment of 20,000 social housing units from the current federal government over the term of this government, but we really need to increase that.”

Desperate search for a home

The statistics on homelessness in Australia are staggering.

Since June 2021, rents in Australia have increased by 13.2%, and in 2020-2021 over 100,000 people came to services for homeless people in need of long-term accommodation.

Arok Deng is pregnant with her first child and is looking for a house to rent.(Provided)

Arok Deng is due in four weeks and is desperate for a home.

“I had been looking for a property for three or four months,” she said.

Arok Deng, a security guard, has always lived with his parents, but with four of his five siblings plus his young niece also living there, it’s crowded.

“I’ve inspected about 35 houses and out of 35 houses, I haven’t even recovered one so far,” she said.

“They just say, ‘Well, the property manager needs someone with a rental history.’

“How are we going to get a rental history when you’re not giving us the option to get a rental history first?”

This is not the first time that housing has been uncertain for Arok Deng. She spent nine years in a refugee camp in Kenya.

“To come from a background story where finding a home used to be difficult, or just living in a small tent, it’s devastating to know that we’re still going through this right now,” she said.

The 26-year-old, her boyfriend and their baby need to find somewhere soon.

“You get absolutely nothing from these properties, not even a single phone call to say you’ve been approved.

“It’s just devastating and very upsetting for someone like me.”

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