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Homelessness week 2020: Everybody needs a home

August 9, 2020

 

 

The announcement of stage 4 lockdown coinciding with national homelessness week has put the spotlight on the gaping holes of Australia’s housing system. 

 

Even before COVID-19, almost 120,000 people were homeless in Australia every night, and the onset of the second wave has highlighted the need to consider housing as a human right. Right before the implementation of stage 4 restrictions, the Victorian Government announced the From Homeless to Homes package, continuing hotel accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, and investing more in long-term housing solutions.

 

This homelessness week, the focus has been on the Everybody’s Home campaign, that puts forward 5 main recommendations to fix our broken housing system.

 

1. Support first home buyers

 

Now more than ever, young Australians are struggling to crack into the housing market. Despite this difficulty, a 2019 report by the Australian Housing and Urban Institute outlines that home ownership is the ideal tenure for 60% of the more than 2,400 survey respondents.  But very few young people are planning for their housing futures, with affordability, insufficient income, and employment and insecurity all impacting the achievement of long-term home ownership aspirations. While policies like the First Homes Loan Deposit Scheme (that’s capped at 10,000 home buyers per year) can help a small few of first home buyers, more needs to be done to tackle the affordability of home ownership for all Australians.

 

According to the Everybody’s home campaign, Australia’s housing market is the third least affordable in the world. With 1 in 3 properties in Australia investments, it’s incredibly hard for first home buyers to compete in auctions and crack into the housing market. That’s why the campaign is asking for:
 

  • A reduction negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions, to reset housing taxation to deliver fairer outcomes

  • Using the billions government will save by removing tax breaks to encourage investment in the social and affordable housing Australia needs

  • Prioritising first home buyers over property speculators by resetting the tax system

 

 

2. Create a national housing strategy

 

Australia needs a National Housing Strategy to address the growing housing crisis. Housing issues like difficulties faced by first home buyers, rental affordability for key workers, and rising levels of homelessness has led to calls for Australia to implement such a Strategy.

 

In the current housing crisis, more than 1 in 9 households are paying more for housing than they can afford (that is, more than 30% of their income). With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, these numbers could get worse. The national housing strategy outlined by the Everybody's home campaign proposes a plan for federal government, in partnership with state and local governments to:
 

  • Build the 500,000 social housing that is needed to address the shortfall

  • Investment the generation of 300,000 new social and Aboriginal housing properties

  • Create a new tax incentive or direct subsidy to leverage super fund and other private sector investment in 200,000 low cost rental properties for low and middle income earners

 

3. Create a better deal for renters

 

‘Generation rent’ is a term used to describe 25-34 year old’s who have been shut out of home ownership. With more people living in the private rental market long term, tenants need to feel secure in their homes. This means, tenancy laws in all Australian states and territories need to protect tenants against evictions, unfair rent rises, discrimination and landlords who refuse to maintain properties.

 

There is no doubt that renting in Australia is precarious. That’s why the Everybody’s Home campaign is calling on all Australians states and territories to change tenancy laws to protect tenants by:
 

  • Getting rid of ‘no grounds’ evictions

  • Limiting rent increase to once every 12 months

  • Tightening regulations around applications for rentals to stop discrimination

  • Minimising property standards to make sure all rental properties are liveable

  • Nationalising consistent protection for renters through legislative protections against evictions, rent rises, discrimination and landlords who refuse to maintain properties

 

4. Provide immediate relief for Australians in chronic rental stress
 

There are currently 2 in 5 Australians in rental stress (that is, where you pay more than 30% of your income in rent) even while receiving rent assistance. With higher unemployment rates and the proposed decrease in Jobkeeper and Jobseeker payments, this number is likely to grow.

 

Growing competition for rental properties has seen rents skyrocket, and everyday workers are struggling to pay rent for ordinary homes. Under rental stress people struggle to meet basic costs like decent food, electricity, education and healthcare. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the Australian Council of Social Service was calling for an increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by an absolute minimum of 30%. As a first step, this equates to about $20 per week, and would evidently improve rental affordability for many households.

 

Building the 500,000 social and affordable rental homes needed will solve this problem, but it will take time. That’s why in the meantime, Everybody’s Home campaign is calling for:
 

  • An increase to commonwealth rent assistance while more social and affordable housing is being built

  • Provide renters with a catch up increase of 30% or about $20 a week for those in the highest rental stress

  • Review the way rent assistance is calculated to make eligibility and payment fairer

 

 

5. Design a plan to end homelessness by 2030

 

More people are experiencing homelessness than ever before because of the shortfall of affordable housing and increasing rents. In just four years, homelessness has increased by 13.7%. With cuts to social security payments, and the unemployment rate projected to hit 10% by December this year, we can expect more people under housing stress, struggling to pay the bills, and facing homelessness.

 

Now more than ever we need a plan to end homelessness by 2030. It is known that having a home is a springboard to other positive outcomes, such as holding down a job and better health outcomes. Because of this, the Everybody’s Home Campaign hopes the plan will:
 

  • Address all the drivers of homelessness including the lack of affordable housing, poverty and family violence

  • Rapidly rehouse people who are homeless and help them stay there

  • Address the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the homeless service system

  • Commit to ending homelessness by 2030 by taking action to prevent homelessness and delivering rapid access to the housing and support people need if they do lose their home

 

What can you do?

 

We need you to help us put pressure on our federal government to invest in housing and homeless solutions now. Support the Everybody’s Home campaign to put on this pressure by signing the petition, and together, we can end homelessness!

 

PETITION LINK: https://everybodyshome.com.au/petition-morrison-albo/

 

 

References

 

Australian Council of Social Services, 2019 ‘Productivity Commission highlights need to increase Rent Assistance and invest in social housing’, viewed Saturday August 8, retrieved from: https://www.acoss.org.au/media_release/productivity-commission-highlights-need-to-increase-rent-assistance-and-invest-in-social-housing/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CACOSS%20is%20calling%20for%20an,rate%20of%20%2475%20per%20week.

 

Adamson, D 2019 ‘Towards a National Housing Strategy’, Research and Development Compas Housing Services, viewed Friday August 7, retrieved from: https://www.lwb.org.au/assets/Uploads/Compass-National-Strategy-WEB.pdf

 

Bagshaw, E 2019 ‘No free money’: Morrison dismisses concerns over first-home buyer scheme’, viewed Monday August 3, retrieved from: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/no-free-money-morrison-dismisses-concerns-over-first-home-buyer-scheme-20190513-p51moj.html

 

Eastern Homelessness Network, 2020 ‘Everybody’s Home Campaign’, viewed Monday 3 August, retrieved from: https://www.ehn.org.au/sector-news/everybody39s-home-campaign_117s275

 

Everybody’s Home, 2018 ‘Everybody’s Home’, viewed Monday August 3, retrieved from: https://everybodyshome.com.au/

 

Homelessness Australia, 2020 ‘Homelessness Week 2020 Launch Event’, viewed Monday August 3, retrieved from:

https://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/campaigns/homelessness-week-2020/homelessness-week-2020-launch-event

 

Hulse, K 2019 ‘Generation Rent: The future of the private rental sector’, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, viewed Friday August 7, retrieved from: https://www.ahuri.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/45760/Generation-Rent-The-future-of-the-private-rental-sector-Prof-Kath-Hulse-National-Housing-Conference-2019-Darwin.pdf

 

Hutchens, G 2020 ‘Australia's economy was weak before coronavirus. Could a 'job guarantee' help repair the economy?’, viewed Saturday August 8, retrieved from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-09/would-a-job-guarantee-help-repair-australias-economy-coronavirus/12538364

 

Parkinson, S, Rowley, S, Sone, W, James, A, Spinney, A & Reynolds, M 2019 ‘Young Australians and the housing aspirations gap’, Australian Housing and Urban Institute, Final report 318, viewed Friday 7 August, retrieved from:  https://www.ahuri.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/44605/AHURI-Final-Report-318-Young-Australians-and-the-housing-aspirations-gap.pdf

 

Parkinson, S, James, S, Rowley, S, & Stone, W 2019 ‘First home buyers schemes aren’t enough to meet young adults’ housing aspirations’, the Conversation, viewed Monday August 3, retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/first-home-buyer-schemes-arent-enough-to-meet-young-adults-housing-aspirations-121431

 

Power, E 2020 ‘Uprooting, no matter how small a plant you are, is a trauma’: older women renters are struggling’, the Conversation, viewed Friday August 7, retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/uprooting-no-matter-how-small-a-plant-you-are-is-a-trauma-older-women-renters-are-struggling-142907

 

Premier of Victoria, 2020 ‘Homes For Homeless Victorians During Pandemic And Beyond’, viewed Monday August 3, retrieved from: https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/homes-homeless-victorians-during-pandemic-and-beyond

 

 

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