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/
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.
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