Affordable housing – The key to a home for everybody
At Platform Youth Services, we spend almost every day finding ways to support young people who are either experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. Very rarely do we get a chance to work on the solution rather than the symptoms.
Homelessness Week 2019 affords us the opportunity to pause for a moment and do just that. It’s a chance for us to join in on the conversation about what needs to happen to put an end to homelessness.
Before we get to what we see as one of the big fixes, however, let’s throw some light on what homelessness looks like in Australia at the moment, and what the facts reveal.
The facts on homelessness in Australia
According to our latest census stats, over 116,000 Australians are currently without a home. And around 200,000 are waiting for public and community housing.
‘Rough sleepers’ (those literally living on the streets) are just the tip of the iceberg. They represent 7% of all homeless people in Australia. This essentially means 93% of homeless people are largely unseen. They’re the ‘hidden homeless’ –sleeping in cars, rooming houses, couch surfing, or staying in other temporary types of accommodation.
When it comes to young people, 2 out of every 5 homeless people are under 25. Imagine over 27,000 young people without a home tonight. And those are just the ones the ABS was able to count.
According to the statisticians, youth homelessness is masked because either the young person doesn’t want to disclose that they are unable to go home, or the person filling in the form for the household assumes their couch surfing visitor is just that – a visitor who will be returning home soon.
Homelessness is on the rise. Youth homelessness has risen 26% in 10 years. In NSW, homelessness grew by a staggering 27% since the 2011 census.
The most important take-away in all of the facts and figures gathered, however, is that homelessness is not the result of personal failings. We often hear the term “street kids” and “runaways” but this isn’t the reality for most young people.
The top reasons young people need homelessness help:
1) Housing crisis
2) Domestic and family violence
3) Inadequate/inappropriate dwelling conditions
4) Relationship/family breakdown, and
5) Financial difficulties
What the facts tell us about our housing system
The facts and figures are both damning and frightening. When ‘housing crisis’ is listed as the number one factor for youth homelessness, it’s a clear indication that our housing system in Australia is broken.
It’s little wonder the theme chosen for this year’s Homelessness Week is ‘Housing ends homelessness’.
The big fix for homelessness? Secure, affordable Housing
While we know there’s rarely a silver bullet for any complex problem, and homelessness is indeed complex, there is increasing evidence that the provision of affordable housing is one of the most effective and enduring ways to beat homelessness. Finland, for example, has all but solved its homelessness crisis by providing increased affordable housing.
But let’s break it down further. What do we mean by secure, affordable housing? We mean appropriate housing that people can afford to rent, long term; housing where the rent can be met if you’re earning a minimum wage and/or relying on government services, such as Youth Allowance, Newstart, ABSTUDY or a pension. Typically, that means rent that’s at least 20% below the market rate.
Why housing works
When people are experiencing homelessness, they miss out on so many fundamental things that society typically takes for granted; privacy, security, a good night’s sleep, a home-cooked meal, electricity, running water, family, connections, relationships, and self-esteem. Now, imagine applying for or holding down a job with none of the above in place.
A home gives people the fundamentals needed for lifting themselves out of their situation. A long term, secure and safe home enables everybody to get on with life – to get on with looking for work, to study or complete an apprenticeship. Affordable housing is a safety net for when the cost of living keeps rising, but your income is stretched to the limit.
What it’s going to take to make it happen
Groundswell support. Political will. Bipartisanship. National action. All of the above! Because Australia is desperately short of affordable housing.
What you can do today to help make homelessness history is contact your local, state and federal members and start advocating for more social housing to be made available. Some key points you might like to raise in your letter or email:
- We need enough housing to meet Australia’s needs
- We need housing that is affordable for renters and home-buyers on low to moderate incomes
- We need a national housing market that is efficient
- We need a diverse housing profile that suits people at different stages of life.
Together, we can do this!