Homelessness up as housing costs rise and incomes decline

14 March 2018

An increase in homelessness in Australia is unfortunately of little surprise when so little has been done to address housing affordability and inadequate incomes.

Census data released today shows an increase in homelessness in Australia to 116,427 people, including 43,552 (39%) under 25. This is an rise of 13.7% since 2011, exceeding population growth of 8.8%. One in five people who are homeless are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS says with homelessness increasing, the government must address the conditions increasing poverty and inequality in Australia.

“Government must do better in reducing homelessness. As a starting point, it must not walk away from agreements like the National Partnership on Remote Housing, which is a critical part of addressing the affordable housing crisis for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities.

“Families, friends and neighbours in our communities and towns are stretched by low incomes, the casualisation of the workforce, cuts to social security, and unaffordable housing.

“Rental affordability is at crisis point for people on low incomes or the minimum wage.

 “Inadequate incomes and unaffordable housing are forcing people into homelessness, as shown by today’s figures. Children with their parents, young people, workers, and older people are living in cars, in boarding houses and on other people’s couches.

“We hear over and over from people staring down the barrel of homelessness because they cannot afford to pay for essentials. People are choosing between feeding themselves or their children; paying an energy bill or covering the cost of dental care.

“Income support payments, especially Newstart, are completely inadequate to cover basic living costs, as is Rent Assistance.

“Anglicare Australia recently found that there are just 28 affordable rentals Australia-wide for people receiving Newstart or Youth Allowance and Rent Assistance.

“Many households are paying around 50% of their income on rent, leaving them unable to pay for basics like food and electricity.

“We need immediate solutions to this crisis. We need an independent body to monitor and evaluate housing and homelessness. Homelessness numbers should be decreasing in a wealthy country like ours, not increasing.

“Newstart and related payments must increase as a matter of urgency. $274 per week is not enough to prevent poverty or homelessness. Rent Assistance must also go up by 30%. We need investment in social housing and affordable rental, including incentives to encourage investment in new stock for low-income households.”

“We cannot let homelessness continue to increase. Government must develop a new national housing and homelessness strategy as a priority, with clear targets to increase the supply of affordable housing for low-income households and to reduce homelessness.