Vinnies Housing Summit
For far too many people, the cost of living in our State is impossible. We know that for people on low incomes, all it takes is a sudden crisis like getting sick or losing your job and you can lose your home.
At Vinnies, we see it every day, because we help pick up the pieces and rebuild people’s lives. But we’d rather we didn’t have to.
In the week we launch the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, we’re calling on the New South Wales Government to hold a Crisis Summit that’ll tackle the housing issue once and for all.
Why? Because all people deserve a right to home. All people should have access to safe and affordable housing. Yet the release of ABS census data on homelessness in March clearly demonstrated that NSW faces an unparalleled and unprecedented housing crisis.
On census night in 2016 there were 37,715 people facing homelessness in NSW. That’s compared to 27,479 five years earlier – a shocking 37% increase.
At Vinnies NSW our frontline services and programs help deal with this emergency. For example, as well as providing food, beds we also provide educational programs, health clinics and trauma based counselling.
But with 10,000 more people facing homelessness in our State than five years ago, there’s only so much we can do.
The biggest burden on household finances, one of the leading drivers of homelessness is the impossible rents and lack of access to affordable housing. And something needs to be done.
The Crisis Summit on Homelessness we’re proposing needs to be convened immediately. It must be focussed and evidenced based and should lead to a properly established, fully funded public policy approach to affordable housing.
To do this, the Premier needs her key decision-makers at the table. The Treasurer, the planning minister, and the social services minister can then start fixing the crisis in partnership with industry and the community.
Here are our suggestions for the Summit. The Premier should lead discussions and become the chief advocate for driving public policy reform and State government response. The Minister for Planning and Housing should come to the Summit committed to a 15% inclusive development target – meaning 15% of all newly-built private housing must be affordable to people on low incomes.
The Treasurer should come with a plan for sustained funding and a ‘Housing First’ approach to infrastructure and long-term planning. The Minister for Family and Community Services should continue to build on the successes of the partnership approach which sees all service providers respond to the most needy, and at-risk people on the brink of homelessness.
The Summit should welcome developers and their representatives, who have demonstrated that inclusive development is achievable, desirable, affordable for the community, and profitable.
Academics too have the evidence, and are already talking about solutions. It is a problem that needs the world’s best thinkers, and there are people at our leading universities and institutions with potential solutions.
To this list of players we would add the non-government organisations, whose members are not only tireless campaigners, but who are also well regarded and experienced tenancy managers. We are the organisations and individuals who do the heavy lifting providing housing and homelessness services, particularly for those most vulnerable and needy members of our community.
This is a government with the means and it must now solve the issue. The time for argument and debate is over. The time for solutions is now.
Jack de Groot is the CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW
The Vinnies CEO Sleepout will be held in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and across the country on 21 June 2018 – www.ceosleepout.org.au