The peak body for Australia’s community welfare sector, ACOSS, has welcomed today’s Commonwealth government announcement that it will commit to providing half the funding as part of a new homelessness partnership agreement with the states and territories.
“This commitment is welcomed and we now call on the states and territories to come on board and negotiate an agreement when housing ministers meet on Friday,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.
“The release of ABS figures this week showing that homelessness continues to rise in Australia makes it imperative that an agreement is reached as soon as possible. We simply must act if we are to prevent more people falling into poverty and onto the streets.
“We know that the high cost of housing is one of the principle reasons for an 8% increase in homeless between 2006 and 2011. There were over than 105, 000 classified as homeless on Census night in August 2011, which is not good enough for a wealthy country such as ours that prides itself on fairness.
“ACOSS welcomes Housing and Homelessness Minister Brendan O’Connor’s statement that a new partnership will be ‘based on matched funding and framed by the core principles of prevention, early intervention and breaking the cycle of homelessness’.
“We know that without a National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness the level of homelessness would be even worse. We also know that investment in areas such as the social housing initiative have made a positive impact on homelessness services. But there is still a long way to go.
“We must continue our efforts to expand the supply of affordable housing, and to ensure homelessness services are adequately funded.
“ACOSS has called for the establish of an Affordable Housing Growth Fund in order to expand the stock of affordable housing, with a long term funding strategy attached to it. We’ve also called for the National Rental Affordability Scheme, that directly encourages investment in new affordable flats and houses, should also be expanded.
“We urge housing ministers to negotiate in good faith and come to agreement at Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting so we have long term certainty in funding that is vital to begin the process of reversing the slide in the number of people falling into homelessness.
“We need an outcome that ensures funding levels are retained, properly indexed and increased over time. The agreement should also become open ended recognising that our efforts need to be long term and sustained.
“Community organisations at the frontline of dealing with this problem need to be properly resourced, and like the business sector also be part of the COAG process of informing ministers who ultimately decide on policy responses,” Dr Goldie said.
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