The concerning trend of rising homelessness

Michelle Wisbey 2018, Blog, Homelessness, Housing, Uncategorized

In every corner of the state, there are Tasmanians living without a safe and secure roof over their head.

That is not good enough.

With the latest release of the 2016 Census data earlier this month comes the startling figure that for every 10,000 Australians, 50 people are homeless.

The number of homeless Australians has increased by almost 14 per cent over the past five years, and by a massive 30 per cent in the last decade.

If we take a look at Tasmania specifically, in 2016, there were 1615 homeless people in the state.

Breaking that down even further: 38 per cent were under the age of 25, one-quarter were born outside of Australia, and 58 per cent were male.

The Hobart local government area had the largest homeless population in 2016 with 306 people, followed by Launceston with 236, Glenorchy had 192, and Clarence had 174.

These are worrying numbers, as is the overall trend of rising homelessness rates.

Help is needed right now.

Anglicare provides services to assist people find and maintain suitable housing – on-the-ground staff see the faces of Tasmania’s housing crisis every day.

While a lack of affordable housing is a long-standing issue in Tasmania, lately Anglicare staff are seeing an escalation in the volume and urgency of people seeking housing help.

Launceston staff are seeing people sent up from Hobart to find a home because finding an affordable home in the state’s capital is an impossibility.

Not only does this uprooting of vulnerable families force them to relocate their entire lives, but it is adding further pressure to the Launceston housing market.

Staff are assisting people who have been unable to sustain their tenancy after a rent increase of up to $70 per week – an incredible jump that pushes people out of their property or into extreme rental stress.

But this systemic problem is not only gripping those traditionally regarded as vulnerable.

Frontline staff are seeing an increasing number of families on higher incomes seeking housing support, this includes people who already have full-time employment but remain unable to keep up with the ever-rising cost of living.

These are people who, in the past, have been able to manage housing arrangements on their own, but with the housing crisis escalating rapidly, they are simply being priced out of the rental market and need assistance to find options.

Whether you are young or old, everyone deserves to have a roof over their head.

We know that stable housing provides the base for a healthier life – it provides an opportunity for better outcomes in education, healthcare and employment.

As SARC prepares to undertake its annual Rental Affordability Snapshot next month, we expect that its findings will reflect the growing urgency in Tasmania’s lack of affordable housing.

Last year’s figures revealed there were 14 per cent fewer rental properties in 2017 compared to the previous year, and 49 per cent fewer over a five year period.

The snapshot found that there were no properties in the entire state which could be considered affordable for a young person on Youth Allowance.

For single adults on Newstart or a Disability Support Pension or a single parent reliant on a government income, there were extremely low numbers of appropriate and affordable homes.

In the face of this growing crisis, long-term solutions are definitely important.

We need to look at measures such as:

  • Building significantly more public and social housing
  • Mandating a percentage of affordable housing for all new developments and redevelopments
  • Moving from stamp duty taxes to a more progressive broad-based land tax
  • Changing planning schemes to facilitate more affordable housing
  • Changing negative gearing and capital gains discounts that drive up prices and prioritise wealth creation over homes

But as the weather begins to get colder, windier and wetter, we also need to act fast.

We need to urgently increase investment in homelessness services and implement policies that encourage short-term accommodation properties to be freed up immediately for affordable rentals.

We need to find innovative, short term options for providing reasonable and safe shelter for those who are currently sleeping in cars and tents.

It is not good enough that homelessness statistics are rising, because these are not numbers on a page, these are people – families and children that have a right to a home.