Historic opportunity for public and community housing

24 September 2008

After long term under-investment, public and community housing stock in Australia is critically low and there are record numbers of people in rental stress.

The number of public housing dwellings has declined by more than 30,000 over the last decade. At the same time, the number of people in rental stress has ballooned to more than three quarters of a million people.

COAG will be deciding on the level of public and community housing funding in early October as a new National Affordable Housing Agreement is negotiated. This is an historic opportunity to ease the pressure on low income renters and it is essential the package includes expanding affordable housing stock and increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance to the lowest income households.

The Rudd Government has committed to a suite of measures to improve housing affordability. However, without major additional investment in public and community housingsubstantial improvements in housing affordability cannot be achieved.

Under the auspices of Australia Fair, welfare and housing groups along with public and community housing tenants, are meeting with Federal politicians in Canberra today to call for urgent action.

The group is calling for:

1. An increase in the stock of public and community housing of 30,000 additional dwellings by 2012.

2. $7.5 billion over 4 years for an Affordable Housing Growth Fund to expand the stock of public and community housing. This is approximately $5 billion above existing funding levels.

3. A review of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and inthe short term, an increase in the maximum rate of CRA by 30% for low income households currently receiving the highest rate of CRA. This equates to an average $15 a week for low income households.

ACOSS Acting CEO, Gregor Macfie, said, “Secure housing is a foundation for stable education and employment and contributes to community cohesion. Inadequate, unaffordable or insecure housing can result in poor health outcomes, interrupted schooling, unemployment and poverty.”

National Shelter Chairperson, Adrian Pisarski, said, “Too many vulnerable Australians have been forced into unsuitable and unaffordable housing, competing in a rental market rigged against them. The Government has an opportunity to address the neglect of public and community housing. Without these additional measures we will have failed the most vulnerable Australians.”

Homelessness Australia Executive Officer, Simon Smith, said, “People experiencing homelessness are facing severe delays in accessing public and community housing. With 105,000 people homeless on any given night, an increase in affordable housing stock is an essential part of our responseto homelessness.”

Community Housing Federation of Australia Chairperson, Ciaran Synnott, said, “We need to look at innovative ways to deliver on housing affordability. Community housing provides more than just bricks and mortar. It provides links to local services and community networks and harnesses millions of dollars worth of volunteer effort in housing management across the country.”

Media contact: Clare Cameron – 0419 626 155