United call for action on housing affordability crisis

The Australian Council of Social Service today brought together national housing peak bodies and leading welfare agencies in a united call to all political parties to make housing a top priority issue at the coming federal election.

The strong call followed the release of a disturbing new ACOSS report showing that Australia’s housing affordability crisis is having a devastating impact, particularly for people on the lowest incomes who are falling deeper into poverty.

It also comes on the back of a powerful ABC Four Corners program highlighting the plight of people struggling to remain housed on the low $35 a day Newstart Allowance.

Community welfare organisations are dismayed that serious future responses to the affordable housing crisis seem to be missing from the policies of both major parties.

“With welfare agencies overwhelmingly reporting that housing availability and affordability is the greatest unmet need of their clients, the situation has become critical and it’s time to act,” said ACOSS Deputy CEO, Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine.

“Leading charities and national housing peak groups today outlined considered proposals that would go some way to dealing with a crisis that is hurting so many people, yet barely mentioned in the election context. We want to see all-party support for immediate action.

The priorities shared by the peak agencies and national welfare agencies participating in today’s joint conference include:

  • Make the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), that provides incentives for investment in affordable housing, permanent and immediately provide 50,000 new incentives
  • Commit to an affordable housing growth fund
  • Lift the level of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and review its effectiveness
  • Make a serious commitment to address homelessness and, as part of this, increase funding for homelessness services to match unmet need
  • Sign a new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness

“Another urgent priority is to increase Newstart which has failed to keep up with community living standards. Our survey found almost 80% of people presenting to housing and homeless services were wholly reliant on income support payments, and most were on low payments like Newstart.

“If we are serious as a nation in addressing disadvantage, we need to ensure people have a decent income to live on when they are going through tough times.

“These priorities must drive both social and economic policies, as we plan for the investment in social support and infrastructure that Australia needs now and into the future.

“We call on federal representatives and candidates, from across all parties, to come together on the solutions to these critical challenges,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

Spokespeople present at today’s doorstop:
Tessa Boyd-Caine – Deputy CEO, ACOSS
Kelvin Alley – Spokesperson, The Salvation Army
Roland Manderson – Acting Executive Director, Anglicare Australia
John Falzon – CE, St Vincent de Paul Society, National Council
Adrian Pisarski, CEO, National Shelter
Jennifer Clarke, spokesperson, Homelessness Australia
Eddy Bourke, Acting Executive Officer, Community Housing Federation of Australia