Homelessness and Housing: Something's Not Adding Up.
According to the latest available census data (2016), there were over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness in Australia, which is a 13.7% increase from the 2011 census. This includes people living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping in cars, as well as those staying in temporary or emergency accommodation or couch-surfing.
As of the most recent census, there are over 1 million unoccupied dwellings in this country. While what actually defines an “unoccupied” dwelling is broad enough not to simply mean an empty apartment that could otherwise be used for homelessness alleviation, there are still a considerable amount of dwellings that do fit this category. Exacerbating this issue are largely unregulated practices occurring such as ‘land banking’ in which owners and developers hold onto unused land and housing for extended periods of time, effectively hoarding resources to benefit from inflated prices in the future.
In 2018, the Victorian parliament passed legislation introducing the Vacant Residential Land Tax (VRLT) in order to curb the specific practice of land banking. Homes that had not been occupied for more than 6 months would incur extra taxes based on improved value of the property. Prior to this being introduced, there were an estimated 3280 properties this tax would be levied on alone.
According to a report commissioned by Launch Housing conducted by the University of NSW and the University of Queensland, housing affordability has been one of the fastest growing causes of homelessness, with monthly users of specialist housing services increasing by 27% from the previous 4 years.
There is a clear issue in Australia. The pursuit of profit through property has become all-consuming, directly contributing to widespread suffering, leaving many people without even the most basic dignity of adequate shelter. It is clear that we need significant government intervention to ensure that everyone is treated equitably, especially those who have been left behind in our supposedly fortunate nation.