The housing affordability crisis

The Bureau of Statistics has disclosed that homelessness has risen by eight per cent over the past five years, despite the Federal Government goal to halve this figure by 2020. Over the last year one in every 98 Australians has requested help from welfare agencies because they are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and welfare groups are struggling to keep up with the demand.

Over the 2011–2012 period welfare groups were unable to meet one-fifth of requests for crisis accommodation, which means just under 50,000 Australians were left stranded. Michael Perusco, Chief Executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, has said that a lack of affordable housing is a big part of the issue.

“These results… demonstrate that more work needs to be done to reduce the impact of the housing affordability crisis.”

James Toomey from Mission Australia explained that the private rental market in metropolitan Australia was too expensive for anyone living on government benefits.

“The vast majority of properties on the private rental market are not affordable for anyone on government benefits. If someone loses their job, they can very easily be tipped into homelessness. The door literally closes on you.”

Taking care of our own

If you are receiving the full Age Pension, which is less than the ASFA standard for a ‘moderate’ lifestyle, and do not own your own home then housing becomes a real problem. Living in any of Australia’s major cities is not financially viable for most, but moving away to find cheaper housing in a rural area means leaving friends, family and access to services behind. So what do you give up? And should anyone have to?

I was also distressed to discover that one third of those who received help because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness were children under 17, even though they only make up 23 per cent of the general population.

When did we stop taking care of our own? The Federal Government keeps telling us our economy is stable, yet homelessness has risen by eight per cent in the last five years. We are spending over five billion dollars on international aid this year, and even though domestic Australia has become the third largest beneficiary of that aid (a moral issue for another time), it is being used to cover the cost of asylum seekers arriving in Australia.

I’m a big believer in international aid and do not begrudge those countries in need, but when there are Australians who have worked hard all their lives struggling to keep a roof over their heads, let alone live comfortably, then I think there are some very real issues with the system.

Do you think housing is too expensive? Should the Government be doing more to alleviate homelessness? And should we be spending more to help our own before sending money overseas?