Homelessness in Australia

Who is my neighbour?This graphic demonstrates that on any given night in Australia 1 in 200 people are homeless.

Housing is a human right, but on any given night in Australia more than 105, 000 people are homeless.

Every day, our staff and members see the human face behind the homelessness statistics. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate – the homeless population comprises people of all ages and backgrounds.

For some, homelessness is a one-off occurrence. For others, it is a prolonged experience that may be interspersed with periods of being housed. The experience of homelessness in Australia can also vary greatly – from sleeping on the streets or moving between temporary situations, to living in a crowded or unsafe dwelling that effects a person’s ability to participate in family and community life.

Explore the issue

This graphic demonstrates that in Australia, 17,845 children under the age of 12 are homeless.

There is simply not enough affordable housing to meet demand, and the situation has been getting steadily worse.

Growing numbers of people are living without secure accommodation or are experiencing housing stress (paying more than 30 per cent of household income on their housing). Australia has a shortfall of housing supply, estimated at over 500,000 rental dwellings which are both affordable and available to the lowest income households. At the same time, the social housing system is struggling to cope with demand, with over 200,000 households on the waiting list for social housing.

This graphic states that around 39% of those experiencing homelessness are living in severely crowded dwellings.

Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), which is designed to alleviate poverty in the private rental sector, is also inadequate, with over 40 per cent of CRA recipients experiencing housing stress. Meanwhile, tax and planning policies continue to push housing prices beyond affordable levels.

Despite this situation, Australia has no national plan to tackle the housing affordability and homelessness crisis.  Deep and sustained reform is urgently needed on a number of fronts.

What we are calling for

In 2016, we released The Ache for Home report. This report outlines the dimensions of Australia’s housing crisis, provides a comprehensive housing and homelessness plan, and includes tangible policy recommendations for all levels of government. The key recommendations made to the Federal Government are:

  1.  The establishment of a $10 billion Social and Affordable Housing Fund.
  2.  The preparation of a National Housing Plan.
  3.  The recognition of the human right to housing.
  4.  The setting of new targets to halve homelessness and halve the housing shortfall by 2025.

Tackling housing affordability and preventing (not just managing) homelessness is possible. However, it requires political leadership, committed funding, and a willingness to work across all levels of government.

The Commonwealth and state and territory governments have a number of programs in place, but they are proving inadequate to the task. Since 2013, most of these programs has been delivered through two national agreements: the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH). 

In the 2017 Federal Budget, the Federal Government announced that these two agreements (NAHA and NPAH) would be replaced by the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA). This new agreement is due to start in July 2018 and will maintain current funding levels for three years.

While the new national agreement puts an end to the crippling funding uncertainty that has affected front-line services in recent years, the precise details of the NHHA are yet to be worked out. 

Although the Federal Government has committed to to maintaining the present ‘floor’ of funding for social housing and homelessness services, much more needs to be done. Australia is still without any national strategy for ending homelessness or tackling the housing affordability crisis. And simply preserving funding at the current profoundly inadequate will not address the crisis in housing affordability, nor is it sufficient for homelessness services struggling to meet growing demand – including an additional 43,000 new people requiring services each year.

Vinnies has called on the Commonwealth to develop a comprehensive national strategy to address affordable housing and homelessness. Adequate, indexed and long-term funding should be part of a renewed plan to halve homelessness by 2025 – a plan that addresses the drivers of homelessness (including the supply of affordable housing), rapidly rehouses people who are homeless, and provides adequate and flexible support for those needing to sustain housing.

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