Fatal boarding house fire highlights need for more social and affordable housing

15 March 2022

A horrific fire overnight at a Newtown boarding house has resulted in the deaths of three people and several more injured.

“This is a deeply saddening event, a man has died and several more are injured.

“The residents of the boarding house would have had no other option but to live there.

“There are far too few places available for people in need of social and affordable housing and some of the boarding houses we see are not adequate.

“The residents will probably struggle finding a new place to stay and that isn’t right.

“As a community we need to do more to protect our most vulnerable,” St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, Jack de Groot said.

“It’s important that everyone has access to safe, secure housing.

“A boarding house is, essentially, a place of last resort.

“Someone living in a boarding house is experiencing a form of homelessness,” Mr de Groot said.

“There are 50,000 applicants – representing more than 100,000 people – on the waiting list for social housing in NSW alone and many more in need of affordable housing.

“It was recently front page news – again – that necessary workers like nurses and firefighters are being priced out of Sydney.

“And people on the social housing waiting list can wait 10 years or longer for a home,” Mr de Groot said.

“The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW helps people experiencing homelessness every day, not just in the cities but throughout the regions as well,” St Vincent de Paul Society NSW State Council President, Paul Burton, said.

“Our members provide assistance at conferences, as do our employees at the Vinnies Support Centres, as well as our volunteers at Vinnies Shops.

“We have specialist homelessness services like the Matthew Talbot Hostel in Sydney and throughout the state.

“We do what we can but there are many, many people experiencing homelessness.

“We make a difference but it is beyond the scope of a charity to fix the structural problems that have created the issue that our society faces,” Mr Burton said.