STOP foreign residential property investment … with homes … i.e. ghost towers from money laundering … kept off the market … because they can access Australia’s capital appreciation and negative gearing write-offs providing more than enough returns for foreigners to invest …
Property values continue to rise faster than the rest of the economy … with three empty houses for every homeless person in Victoria.
The economic and social benefits of ending homelessness have been demonstrated in various places around the world, like Finland providing long term shelter to the homeless!
LOWEST WAGES GROWTH … and competition for rental accommodation from the high influx of Vibrants … Visa Workers … has led to more Australians becoming homeless … yet our governments have sold off Public Housing Estates!
SQUATTING IN ABANDONED HOUSES TAUGHT ME THAT THE GOVERNMENT COULD END HOMELESSNESS IF IT WANTED TO
00:00 / 08:31
I’ve been homeless for 26 years, and one thing I have learned is that the government could solve homelessness in a matter of months if it chose to, writes Joseph Walter*.
UPDATED 29 FEBRUARY 2020
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I sleep on a building site. When I first became homeless I was 15 years old. I’m 41 now, and I’ve spent most of the intervening years in the same situation.
At first I managed to couch surf for a while, then I spent some time hopping between youth shelters, none of which ever provided a path to stable housing.
As I got older, the number of shelters that could provide me with emergency accommodation dropped to zero, and since then I have slept on the street, in people’s garages, in clothing donation bins (when you still could), on public transport, and in abandoned buildings.
Of those options, I found squatting in abandoned buildings to be the best. It’s the safest, and it provides you with a little independence.
For example, you don’t have to rely on charity for food when you have a place to keep a camp stove, and that means you have many more hours every day you can use to try to change your situation.
You can hold down a jobwhile squatting. Until the building gets demolished and you’re back on the street, anyway.
We tend to blame people for their situation, suggesting that things like substance abuse and mental health issues lead to homelessness.
The reality is different. For years, studies have indicated that many homeless people with substance abuse or mental health issues developed those issues after they became homeless — that homelessness was the cause, rather than the other way around.
Blaming homeless people for their situation also ignores that one of the leading causes of homelessness is domestic and family violence.
I have squatted with a 15-year-old girl who was being abused at home. Since the government could find no evidence of wrongdoing, its solution was to send her back to that environment. Of course she wasn’t going to stay, but I never heard from her again.
There’s another factor contributing to homelessness in Australia that is never mentioned, however.
Our system of allocating resources simply doesn’t meet everyone’s needs.
It is a fact that there is more than enough housing for everyone in Australia.Prosper Australia’s Speculative Vacancies report estimates that 60,901 residential properties were vacant in Melbourne alone in 2017 — that’s close to three empty houses for every homeless person in Victoria.
These properties are simply kept off the market. Many of them are perfectly good houses. I stayed for nearly a year in a ten-bedroom, three-story mansion with three bathrooms, fifteen-foot ceilings, and chandeliers throughout. The closest train station was a short walk to Melbourne Central.
Capital appreciation and negative gearing write-offs provide more than enough returns for people to invest in properties they intend to leave empty, taking them off the market.
Property values continue to rise faster than the rest of the economy, making for a solid investment whether or not the property is used.
The government either did not understand the numbers, or was afraid of the pushback that would have resulted from a policy that actually had any effect.
Given the number of economic experts the government employs, the former seems unlikely.
The problem policymakers face is that if you supply enough housing to meet demand, the monetary value of that housing is reduced.Rent is cheaper. Buying a house is cheaper. Returns on investment are temporarily lowered, and that’s where the issue lies.
Our government lacks the political will to make a change that might significantly slow the growth of property values, yet that is what is needed to solve homelessness.
The economic and social benefits of ending homelessness have been demonstrated in various places around the world, like Finland.
In 2007, Finland implemented a Housing First policy, which provides long term shelter to the homeless without requiring months or years of engaging with bureaucracy first.
Similar policies have been adopted in other countries, and Western Australia recently announced plans to do the same.
These benefits far outweigh the cost, but they are complex, and not as easily conveyed in a soundbite as a reduction in property value growth rates.
Here in Victoria and much of Australia, our governments won’t act meaningfully, so we continue to bear the greater cost. The most vulnerable among us are forced to carry the bulk of it. The government could end homelessness, but it’s choosing not to.
Mental Health Housing and Homelessness Interrelated … AHURI
RESEARCH DINAH LEWIS BOUCHER THU 20 FEB 20
Australia’s housing, homelessness and mental health systems are crisis-driven and not well integrated, meaning many struggle to access required support when needed, reveals new research.
The national study, Trajectories: the interplay between mental health and housing pathways, is one of the first to examine the relationship between the housing and mental health pathways of people with lived experience of mental ill-health.
Undertaken by Mind Australia in collaboration with AHURI the quantitative analysis highlights the impact mental health issues have on a person’s financial situation, and ultimately, directly impacting their housing stability.
“People who experienced severe psychological distress had an 89 per cent increased likelihood of financial hardship in the following year and a 96 per cent increased likelihood of financial hardship within two years,” the report said.
“People whose mental health deteriorated to the point where they experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression and who did not see a health specialist were 65 per cent more likely to face financial hardship, such as going hungry, having to sell possessions or not be able to pay housing costs.”
Highlighting potential points of “practical intervention” and areas for “system improvement”, the research identifies five housing trajectories people commonly experience as a result.
Five common housing and mental health trajectories: AHURI
• Excluded from help required, this trajectory is characterised by a lack of access to housing or mental health care.
• People stuck without adequate support, is a trajectory where they are trapped in inappropriate housing, institutions or services due to a lack of options.
• The cycling trajectory is marked by a downward spiral in which people enter into and drop out of supports repeatedly, which progressively erodes their resources.
• People on the stabilising trajectory have access to secure, appropriate, safe and affordable housing, ongoing mental health support and the social and financial resources necessary to focus on recovery
• People on the well supported trajectory have the type of housing and level of care that is right for them and can achieve their ambitions beyond housing and mental health.
Housing as foundation for mental health recovery
“For people with ill mental health, appropriate housing is housing which allows for control of space,” report co-author Dr Sarah Pollock from Mind Australia said.
“It’s in a safe neighbourhoodclose to family and friends; and has good access to public transport, services, and opportunities for work, volunteering or study.
“Our research finds that having access to safe, secure, affordable and appropriate housing is the foundation to recovering from mental ill health,” Pollock said.
The research found that housing outcomes for people experiencing mental health issues showed that mediating factors, such as social support, having good general health, and accessing mental health and other health services, can reduce the likelihood of housing instability.
“Stable social support reduced the likelihood of deteriorating mental health to the point where a person experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression by 33 per cent, reducing the length of time a person was unwell by 6 per cent,” the report said.
FROM A CAAN CONTRIBUTOR … Here’s how he sums it up!
‘THREE MILLION HOMELESS IN AUSTRALIA … 800,000 children.
People living rough, can’t afford rent, Newstart below poverty line.
Add to that the huge over supply of apartments (not just my ramblings).
Righteous government crowing about affordable housing – who’s it for?
We are probably the least equitable westernised country on the planet.
Under the LNP we have gone backwards. But it’s OK to keep your franking credits, it’s ok to systematically underpay your workers …
Do CEOs find themselves underpaid?
Spew venom at Unions but allow politicians to use taxpayers money to supplement election campaigns … Come on people get real!’
Report shows three million people in poverty in Australia and why we must act to support each other
The 2020 Poverty in Australia Overview, released today by the Australian Council of Social Service and UNSW Sydney, shows more than one in eight adults and one in six children live below the poverty line in Australia.
Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “It’s not right that in Australia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, more than three million people, including three quarters of a million children, are living in poverty.
“We want to support each other. It’s who we are as a nation. But our economy is leaving people behind, with persistently high poverty rates despite decades of uninterrupted economic growth.
“People living in poverty include young people working to get their foot in the door of the competitive job market, single parents juggling caring responsibilities, and older people confronting age discrimination.
“The job market is changing, with jobs less secure, and fewer entry level jobs than there used to be. Our housing costs are among the highest in the world and are locking people in poverty. For households of working age with the lowest incomes, average housing costs rose by 42% from 2005 to 2017.
“Australia’s income support system was designed to help people when they are going through tough times. But key income support payments – Newstart and Youth Allowance – have not increased in real terms in 26 years and they are both well below the poverty line.
“The low rate of Newstart, a lack of jobs and unaffordable housing are locking people in poverty. “Not only has poverty remained consistently high in our wealthy country, the depth of poverty is getting worse, with households in poverty on average living 42 per cent below the poverty line, up from 35% in 2007.
“It’s clear we must act to lift people out of poverty. The Government can reduce poverty by boosting growth in jobs, increasing Newstart and Rent Assistance, and investing in social housing to ensure everyone has a safe place to call home,” Dr Goldie said.
The report’s lead researcher, UNSW Sydney Associate Professor Dr Bruce Bradbury said: “The poverty rate in Australia is worse than in most other wealthy countries, including New Zealand, Germany and Ireland.
“Our report finds that 13.6 per cent of people in Australia are living in poverty and that poverty rates have remained at about this level for the past decade, despite economic growth. “Child poverty has consistently been higher than overall poverty, ranging from 18 per cent to 16 per cent over the past decade and now sits at 17.7 per cent – more than one in six children.”
Professor Carla Treloar, Director of the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, said: “We cannot accept these high, persistent levels of overall poverty and child poverty. “We can see in recent decades the impacts of changes to income support settings on poverty levels. It’s clear we must take action on income support, housing and employment to lift people out of poverty,” said Professor Treloar.
• 3.24 million people in Australia (13.6% of the population) live below the poverty line. • 774,000 children under the age of 15 (17.7% of all children in Australia) live below the poverty line. • More than one in eight adults and one in six children live below the poverty line in Australia. • The poverty rate in Australia is worse than in most other wealthy countries. It is worse than in New Zealand, Germany and Ireland, according to the latest figures from the OECD. • In Australia, the poverty line is $457 per week for a single adult. The poverty line is measured as 50% of median income. • The average ‘poverty gap’ (the difference between the incomes of people in poverty in various types of families and the poverty line) is $282 per week. • The single rate of Youth Allowance (plus Rent Assistance and Energy Supplement) is $168 per week below the poverty line. • Our survey of young people on Youth Allowance found 9 in 10 skip meals and 1 in 3 have withdrawn from their studies because of a lack of funds. • The single rate of Newstart (plus Rent Assistance and Energy Supplement) is $117 per week below the poverty line. • Our survey of people on Newstart found more than 8 in 10 regularly skip meals and more than half have less than $15 a day left after housing costs. • The single rate of the Age Pension (plus Pension and Energy Supplements) is closer to the poverty line, but still $10 per week below. • Among the lowest 20% of working-age households by income, average housing costs grew by 42% from 2005 to 2017 (compared with an average rise in housing costs of 15% for the middle 20%). • Newstart, Youth Allowance and Rent Assistance have not increased in real terms in 25 years. • ACOSS is calling for a $95 per week increase to Newstart and Youth Allowance; a $20 per week increase to Rent Assistance (as a first step) and for these payments to be regularly indexed to wages, as is the case for the Age Pension.
Media contacts for ACOSS, UNSW and partner interviews:
ACOSS, Monique Vandeleur 0419 626 155 UNSW Corporate Communications, Belinda Henwood, 0412 270 034 The Brotherhood of St Laurence, Bridie Riordan, 0491 159 256 Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Clare Kermond, 0407 907632 cohealth, Sara Norbury, 0447 125 166 Anglicare Australia, Maiy Azize, 0434 200 794
In an age of sky-high house prices and record debt, Kirsty Garrash and Francis Murphy were close to reaching a financial milestone many homebuyers can only dream about — they owned their family home outright.
Kirsty Garrash and Francis Murphy lost their house after borrowing from a small business lender
Small business lenders are largely unregulated
Small business and consumer credit bodies are calling for greater checks on lending to small businesses
But, now, just two years later, the couple and their five children have been left homeless, victims of a short-term business loan that ended up costing them an annual interest rate of 150 per cent.
“It’s devastating,” Ms Garrash told 7.30.
“In hindsight, I’d never get a loan like that. It undid everything we worked so hard for.”
Their case is symptomatic of the largely unregulated world of small business finance in Australia, where lenders are not obliged to make sure borrowers are taking out loans they can afford.
“It is the wild west,” said Gerard Brody, chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre.
“People can go online or to a broker and get access to an unregulated loan all too easily.”
The consequences for borrowers like Ms Garrash and Mr Murphy, who used their family home as security, can be catastrophic.
‘I feel like we’ve failed’
In 2017, the couple sought a $300,000 loan from Sydney-based firm Mango Credit, which they used to pay off other debts and expand their excavation business on the New South Wales Central Coast.
They agreed to make repayments of $5,250 a month, but this would jump to $37,500 a month if they ever fell behind on the loan.
Their family is now living in a neighbour’s living room while they search for a house to rent.
*It is the kind of financial calamity that Australia’s consumer lending rules are supposed to prevent.
*But because Ms Garrash and Mr Murphy’s loan was taken out in the name of their business, the normal consumer protections do not apply.
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Now, there is a push from consumer groups and Australia’s small business watchdog to tighten regulation of the sector to bring it closer into line with consumer lending rules.
The Small Business and Family Enterprises Ombudsman Kate Carnell believes all lenders should be subject to the AFCA regime.
“I think small businesses have no idea this is not regulated, have no idea that they have no recourse apart from the courts,” she said.
“We need to broaden access to mediation and other forms of justice outside the court system so that small businesses have got somewhere else to go if a non-bank lender does the wrong thing.”
Ms Carnell’s call comes after the final report of the financial services royal commission recommended no changes to the current rules for small business lending.
Mr Brody said that recommendation was a missed opportunity.
“I actually think that’s a mistake. In our submissions we said that there should be checks placed on small business lenders, particularly where loans are secured by a residential property,” he said.
“If that goes south it risks their house, individual wellbeing, their security and their health.”
Earlier this year, seven major small business lenders, including Prospa, OnDeck and Spotcap, signed a voluntary code of practice that requires them to be clear and concise about their interest rates and contract terms.
“That’s around 90 per cent of the market at the moment. We don’t have 100 per cent coverage yet, but we’re working on that,” Dianne Tate, chief executive of the Australian Finance Industry Association, told 7.30.
“The code of practice is really important because it sets standards higher than those contained in the law.”
The code also obliges signatories to be members of AFCA.
“So that means if a small business customer has a dispute with one of our financiers and they aren’t able to resolve it directly they can go to AFCA to get their dispute resolved,” Ms Tate said.
Consumer groups have also raised concerns about so-called “sham lending”, where borrowers take out loans in a company name but ultimately use the money to buy a home or investment property.
It is a strategy they say is sometimes used by lenders and borrowers to avoid consumer protection laws.
“If you borrow from an unlicensed lender for the purpose of purchasing property or for any other personal or domestic purposes, then it should be actually covered by consumer credit laws,” Mr Brody said.
Melbourne retiree Carrol James got a loan from unlicensed business lender Prime Capital when she went in search of finance for a townhouse she was building for herself in 2015.
“I explained the reasons why I needed the finance, and he said they could help me but I needed to have a company name in order for them to lend me the money,” she said.
She borrowed in the name of her self-managed superannuation fund, even though the home would be owned and occupied by her personally and the terms of the loan contract make clear that it was only to be used for business purposes.
“It was actually for me, and they knew that,” she said.
“I explained that to them before they gave me the letter of offer.”
Ms James said she took full responsibility for signing documents saying the loan was for business purposes, even though it was for her personal use.
Prime Capital declined to do an interview, but in a statement denied Ms James told ever the company that the money was for personal property.
“The client provided information that the funds were required to complete a development project,” the statement said.
“The client then obtained independent legal advice on the transaction, and we are aware that lawyer informed the facility must be used for business purposes, and any non-business purpose would be a breach of the facility.
“The client also signed declarations to us that the funds would be used for business purposes.”
The annual interest rate on the $360,000 loan was 24 per cent, with monthly repayments of $9,000, including administration fees of $1,800.
She hoped to only have the loan for three to four months until the unit was completed.
Ms James says she was managing the repayments on the loan until her builder went bust mid-way through the project.
She wanted to refinance with another lender with a lower interest rate, but she says despite repeated requests it took Prime Capital more than five months to get her the loan documents her new lender required.
She estimates the delay increased the total cost of the loan to around $130,000 in interest fees.
“I reached out to consumer affairs, the Financial Ombudsman Service and also to ASIC, and I was told from every one of them there was nothing they could do to help me,” Ms James said.
“There is actually a very big loophole in the system where these lenders don’t actually come under any governing body at all. So there’s no one to keep them accountable.
“I’m the one who signed the agreement, the loan contract.
“But I think Prime Capital need to take responsibility for the hardship they have caused me.”
Prime Capital apologised for the delay in providing Ms James with her documents.
“We accept that these procedures were unhelpful and bureaucratic,” the company said.
There is no suggestion Prime Capital or any of its staff have broken the law.
-because NRAS developers who ‘grandfathered’ dwellingsreceive about $11,000 of public money each year
-not targeted at the most needy
-it didn’t increase the supply of housing by much, if at all
-providing tax incentives for affordable housing is slow and burdensome
–NRAS began in 2008 at the height of the GFC but construction took off only after 2013 when housing was booming
–governments should build more social housing; for those at risk of homelessness
-boost Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 40 per cent; index it to changes in rents
RATHER than continue to serve developers by stomping all over Sydney Communities with “higher density growth” … build social housing on Government land sites; diversify housing types to suit the elderly, singles and families
AND obviously desist with high immigration and Visa Manipulation … the solution to overdevelopment, congestion, inadequate infrastructure and ‘foreign interference’!
FAR more effective than “fixing planning rules”.*
Grattan: NRAS “expensive, inefficient, and poorly targeted”
New Grattan Institute research to be presented at the UNSW Social Policy Conference in Sydney today shows that restoring the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) won’t help because NRAS was expensive, inefficient, and poorly targeted.
Other policies, such as investing in social housing and increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance, are better ways to help low-income earners cope with high housing costs:
What was NRAS?
NRAS was a Rudd-era policy that paid incentives to property developers and community housing organisations that built new dwellings and rented them out to eligible tenants at 20 per cent below market rents for 10 years.
The Abbott Government axed the scheme in 2014. The Department of Social Services estimates the whole-of-life cost of the scheme to the Commonwealth at $3.1 billion, with the final payments to be made in 2026-27.
Labor promised to introduce a new NRAS program if it won the 2019 federal election. Now advocates of affordable housing are calling on the Morrison Government to reinstate the scheme.
*Here’s why it shouldn’t happen.
*NRAS was poor value for money
The value of the NRAS subsidy was set much higher than it needed to be.NRAS developers who have ‘grandfathered’ dwellings still on the program receive about $11,000 of public money each year (the subsidy was set originally at $8,000). In exchange, the government ‘bought’ new dwellings that were rented out at a 20 per cent discount to eligible tenants in that year.
The problem is, $11,000 is much more money than the developers need to cover the rental discount received by tenants. In 2016, the value of a 20 per cent rental discount was just under $4,000 a year in the typical suburb in which NRAS properties were built. The leftover value of the subsidy – about $7,000 a year – was essentially a windfall gain for developers.
We estimate that NRAS provided windfall gains to private developers of at least $1 billion, or roughly one-third of total cost of the scheme.
Community housing providers also received windfall gains although they are likely to have reinvested the funds into more affordable housing or a deeper rental discount to tenants.
The cost of the scheme was also much too high because the subsidy didn’t vary depending on the location or type of dwelling: the same subsidy was offered for a one-bedroom apartment or a four-bedroom home in the same location.
*Not surprisingly, the scheme ultimately funded a lot of small, cheap-to-build apartments.
Of course, the fact that NRAS led to the construction of many smaller dwellings is not a problem in itself. After all, there is a severe shortage of smaller one- and two-bedroom homes affordable to low-income Australians.
And the existing social housing stock appears under-utilised: 60 per cent of social housing dwellings having at least one spare bedroom. But it is clear that governments got particularly poor value-for-money where NRAS subsidies were used to construct smaller dwellings.
NRAS didn’t help people who needed the most support
The eligibility criteria for NRAS properties were far too loose. An individual can qualify to live in one of the NRAS dwellings left on the scheme with an income of up to $50,000, higher than median income in Australia, and a couple can qualify if their household income is below $70,000. That means about half of all Australian households that rent qualify to live in an NRAS-subsidised home.
Even though NRAS was much less targeted than Commonwealth Rent Assistance, it cost far more. The annual cost of making an affordable home available through NRAS – $11,000 a year – is more than three times the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance for a single adult.About half of these NRAS-eligible households would not be eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance because their incomes are too high.
And NRAS housing does not appear to have been particularly well targeted at the most needy. Just one-third of the households living in an NRAS home in 2016 had gross household incomes below $30,000 a year, whereas one-third had incomes above $50,000 a year.
NRAS didn’t increase the supply of housing by much, if at all
There’s little evidence that NRAS led to more housing than would have been built anyway.
Government subsidies don’t create additional housing if they crowd out other private development. Crowding out is more likely when supply is already constrained, as it is in major Australian cities where land-use planning rules prevent greater density in established suburbs. International research confirms that affordable housing tends to crowd out the private market.
Testimonials claim NRAS created substantial new supply.5 But there is little definitive evidence that NRAS added substantially to housing construction. A 2016 report by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) concluded that NRAS did boost supply, but conceded in the fine print that it isn’t possible to determine whether the extra dwellings were truly additional.6 In evidence to the 2015 Senate Economics Committee inquiry into housing affordability, a Department of Social Services representative said NRAS ‘certainly reduced the rent for the houses in the scheme … however, it was difficult to determine whether NRAS had succeeded as a supply-side measure’.
*Nor was NRAS an effective economic stimulus, because providing tax incentives for affordable housing development is both slow and administratively burdensome. NRAS began in 2008 at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, but NRAS construction took off only after 2013, by which time housing construction was already booming.
But there are better ways to house low-income Australians
Of course NRAS could be done differently, but there are inherent problems with government schemes to subsidise the supply of affordable housing: they inevitably mean fewer funds are available to help other households in greater need.
Instead of reinstating NRAS, state and Commonwealth governments should focus on policies that will do the most (at least cost) to better house low-income Australians.
*As a priority governments should build more social, rather than affordable housing, and target it at people at serious risk of becoming homeless.
*The best Australian evidence shows that social housing substantially reduces tenants’ risk of homelessness.
*But Australia’s stagnating social housing stock means there is little ‘flow’ of social housing available for people whose lives take a big turn for the worse.
*In particular, the Morrison Government should repeat another Rudd-era policy, the Social Housing Initiative, under which 20,000 social housing units were built and another 80,000 refurbished over two years, at a cost of $5.6 billion. The economic hit was immediate:construction approvals spiked within 12 months of the announcement.
A repeat today would provide a more effective boost to housing construction than NRAS.
Boosting Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 40 per cent, and indexing it to changes in rents typically paid by people receiving income support, would be a fairer and more cost-effective way to help reduce financial stress and poverty among poorer renters. Rents won’t change much since only some of the extra income will be spent on housing.
The states should fix planning rules that prevent more homes being built in inner and middle-ring suburbs of our largest cities, to make housing cheaper to buy or rent. And the states should reforming tenancy rules, to make renting more secure.
There is a powerful case for governments to do more to help house low-income Australians. But unless we learn from past mistakes, we will wind up with another expensive housing policy that does little to help those who most need that support.
*Good report, except that it ignores the obvious solution of slashing immigration to take the pressure off supply. This would be far more effective than “fixing planning rules”.*
Photo Domain: Developments like this rob R2 zone residents of their amenity; what they have paid for!
Australia’s recently-appointed Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services Luke Howarth has identified emergency accommodation as the Government’s priority for tackling homelessness in Australia, despite calls from lord mayors and advocacy groups for a focus on one of the causes of the problem: housing affordability.
Chief executive of advocacy group National Shelter, Adrian Pisarski, told RN Breakfast that while there is a need for more emergency accommodation, systemic issues in the housing market must also be addressed.
“We have a very deep and severe housing problem in Australia, and it is the social housing end of it that we have been missing out on.”
“We have dropped our social housing levels from a high in 1991 of 7.1 per cent to a low now of 4.2 per cent and falling,” Mr Pisarski said.
“If we don’t address the problems in the housing system, we will never solve homelessness.”
Have social housing levels in Australia dropped from a high of 7.1 per cent in 1991 to a low of 4.2 per cent today?
RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.
Mr Pisarski’s claim is in the ballpark.
There are multiple ways of measuring social housing levels in Australia.
Fact Check examined data published by federal government agencies the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Productivity Commission, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as well the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and other sources.
Mr Pisarski quoted data published by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute which shows the proportion of public and community housing as a proportion of all Australian households was 7.1 per cent in 1991, and 4.2 per cent in 2016.
The figure of 7.1 per cent is higher than census data and other estimates for that year.
The latest AIHW data, which includes all four main types of social housing and is drawn from state and territory government administrative data, shows that in 2017-18, there were 4.6 social housing dwellings per 100 households in Australia.
While making comparisons across the decades is difficult, the body of data suggests the early ’90s was a high point for social housing levels in Australia, and that the levels now are historically low.
What is social housing?
Social housing is rental housing that is funded or partly funded by government, and owned or managed by the Government or a not-for-profit or non-government organisation.
It is set aside for Australians who have difficulty accessing housing in the private market.
This includes people who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, people living with a disability, those experiencing family and domestic violence, low-income families and Indigenous households.
Tenants in social housing pay rent that is lower than market value, with the remainder subsidised.
Commonwealth funding for social housing is provided to state and territory governments through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, with state and territory governments given primary responsibility for delivering the services.
The term “social housing” includes four main types of accommodation:
Public housing: dwellings owned (or leased) and managed by state and territory housing authorities.
State owned and managed Indigenous housing: dwellings owned and managed by state and territory housing authorities that are allocated only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tenants, including dwellings managed by government Indigenous housing agencies.
Community housing: rental housing managed by community-based organisations that lease properties from government or receive some form of government funding (though some are entirely self-funded).
Indigenous community housing: dwellings owned or leased and managed by Indigenous organisations and community councils. These can also include dwellings funded or managed by government.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2017-18 more than 800,000 Australians live in social housing, in more than 400,000 dwellings across the country.
The majority — 72 per cent — live in government owned and managed public housing, while 20 per cent live in community housing, 4 per cent in Indigenous community housing and 3 per cent in state owned and managed Indigenous housing. (Total equals 99 per cent due to rounding).
Assessing the claim
Social housing levels can be measured in a number of ways. A couple of definitions you’ll need to know:
A social housing “household” can be a single person, or a group of two or more people who usually reside in the same dwelling and share the cost of food and other living essentials.
A “dwelling” is the structure, or space within a structure, where the person or group of people live — whether a house, unit or apartment, caravan or tent.
Fact Check examined figures from a range of official sources, focusing on social housing households and dwellings measured as a proportion of total households and occupied private dwellings in Australia, rather than raw numbers, to account for population growth.
The Commonwealth Government first granted funding to the states for the provision of housing in 1945.
However, census counts of government tenancies were first published in the 1954 census, so Fact Check has taken that as the starting point for assessing the high and low elements of the claim.
While the AIHW data can’t be used to assess the “high in 1991” aspect of the claim, it does show that social housing has fallen into the range of 4 per cent.
Historical census data supports the narrative
To look further back, Fact Check referred to Australian Bureau of Statistics census data from 1954, the first census to count tenants living in governmental housing, to 2016.
Changes to the scope of information collected, differences in the definitions used and presentation of the data over the decades, as well as the self-reported nature of the survey, mean it’s not a perfect measure for this purpose.
However, the data that is available does support the assertion that 1991 was a high point, and recent years a low point, for social housing levels in Australia.
In the Survey of Income and Housing, the ABS also publishes data on the proportion of households renting from state and territory housing authorities, from a selection of 15 years between 1994–95 and 2017–18.
This data excludes public housing households in very remote areas, and doesn’t include community housing, so it is not representative of all social housing.
What the remaining data does show is a fall in the proportion of households renting from state and territory authorities, from a high of 6 per cent in 1995-96 to a low of 3.1 per cent in 2017-18.
Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute data
In response to Fact Check’s request for sources to support his claim, Mr Pisarski provided a 2017 research brief published by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), a national research network.
The figures, as quoted by Mr Pisarski, show public housing alone accounting for 7.1 per cent of all households in Australia in 1991, falling to 4.2 per cent (including both public and community housing) in 2016.
The AHURI data refers only to public and community housing, omitting Indigenous community housing and state owned and managed Indigenous community housing, which according to the AIHW accounted for around 7 per cent of social housing in 2017-18.
The AHURI data is also based on census data, which is based on self-reported answers from householders, as opposed to AIHW and Productivity Commission data, which is drawn from government administrative data.
The figure of 7.1 per cent was higher than the census data (at 5.6 per cent), and experts told Fact Check it was higher than their own estimates.
It is fair to say that based on the datasets presented above, there has been a continuing downward trend in social housing levels since 1991.
Judith Yates, an honorary associate in the School of Economics at the University of Sydney, told Fact Check the figures may continue to fall.
“On the basis of current household projections, it is quite possible that the estimate of 4.2 per cent will not be the lowest point reached unless there is a dramatic reversal in the current trend of net new additions to the social housing stock,” Dr Yates said.
“Unless current social housing production increases considerably, it is reasonable to say that its share will continue to fall.”
*Carmela Chivers, an associate at the Grattan Institute, told Fact Check the stock of social housing has “barely grown in 20 years, while Australia’s population has increased by 33 per cent“.
*Terry Burke, Professor of Housing Studies at Swinburne University Centre for Urban Transitions, told Fact Check the “rate of investment in social housing — as either public or community housing — hasn’t kept pace with the overall growth of population or of the total dwelling stock”.
The transfer of public housing to community housing
The decline has been particularly prominent for public housing — accommodation owned and managed by state and territory governments — over the last decade.
*In addition to a proportional decrease, Productivity Commission data shows there has been a decrease in the raw number of public housing dwellings, from around 362,000 in 1996-97 to 316,000 in 2017-18.
*Part of this decline has been offset by an increase in community housing, with the number of dwellings in that sector rising from around 15,000 in 1996-97 to around 88,000 in 2017-18.
*This partly reflects the transfer of some public housing stock to the community housing sector, in line with changes in government policy, as well as new growth in community housing stock.
Professor Burke of Swinburne University told Fact Check that “community housing is now seen as the future of the social housing sector, and as such the growth sector”.
*“Unlike public housing, community housing agencies can access Commonwealth Rent Assistance.”
“This means community housing agencies have a higher income stream from rent than public housing.”
Supply not keeping up with demand
*As of 30 June 2018, there were more than 140,000 applicants on the waiting list for public housing, and close to 9,000applicants on the waiting list for state owned and managed Indigenous dwellings.
InJune 2017, there were more than 38,000 applicants on the waiting list for mainstream community housing. Recent figures for Indigenous community housing were unavailable.
People may be on more than one waitlist, so these numbers may be an overestimate of the total.
However, the figures still suggest high numbers of Australians in need of social housing, with around 50,000 people (based on 2017 and 2018 figures) considered in “greatest need” — including people who are already homeless, at imminent risk of homelessness, or whose life or safety is at risk in their current accommodation.
You’re a young mum with three kids. The abuse from your partner is getting worse. One day you wake up and you realise you can’t live like this anymore and neither can your kids.
You ask for help at your local specialist homelessness service, but all the crisis accommodation is full and their hands are tied. The only emergency option left is a seedy motel.
You don’t have cooking facilities for meals. You don’t have a car or money for public transport, but even if you did, you’re an hour’s drive from the kids’ school and daycare.
This is a picture we should not be seeing, but still do, all too often. The reality is that Australia is failing women such as this who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.Our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our aunties. These are the women who care for us throughout our lives, but too many of them are being let down by the system when they need support the most.
Last year, specialist homelessness services nationally assisted 121,100 clients who had experienced domestic and family violence. This means family violence is a reality for more than four out of 10 clients.
This number was driven upwards by increases in Victoria and New South Wales.
In New South Wales the number of clients who had experienced family violence rose by 4 per cent to 26,630. In Victoria the same number grew by 13 per cent to 56,724. Almost all of the adults were female and more than a third were under 18.
Many younger women are also facing homelessness, fleeing family situations that are unsafe or leaving out-of-home care straight into homelessness.
Too often they don’t have any option other than a rooming house or to take a room where the rent is cheap, but sex is part of the deal. This is not a Hollywood movie about overcoming adversity, where we all get to enjoy the heartwarming happy ending. This is the grim reality for far too many women in this country.
Of those nationally who experienced family violence and were already homeless but sought help from homelessness services, just over half were still homeless at the end of the process. It’s hard to accept. More than half.
While the bulk of women asking for help were aged 25 to 34, we also know that homelessness is affecting women across the life cycle.
After years of perhaps caring for children or other family members, being paid less than men when working and inevitably not having the safety net of decent superannuation, women over 55 make up the fastest growing demographic group experiencing homeless.
Every day we read the headlines in the newspaper about the heat of rental markets in the big cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne. Social security payments simply do not represent any sort of “safety net” at any level in relation to costs of living, especially housing.
Rental markets are mostly unaffordable to those on middle-incomes, let alone someone on Newstart or receiving single parenting payments. Indeed, current campaigns begging the federal government to lift Newstart (at the very least) above the poverty line, are both urgent and extremely timely. Motels and crisis accommodation are packed to the rafters due to bottlenecks in the system, because there’s nowhere to move on to. This does not count as giving women and children a home.
Homelessness is not just rooflessness.
Living in a motel or accommodation designed for a short stay does not alleviate the trauma to your kids of being without a home.Not being able to cook a meal, having to move far away from your supports, friends and family, your kids’ school and their mates, these are the realities of what Australian women are facing when they end up without a home.
Without national strategy and supporting state and territory-based strategies to end homelessness, this problem will not get better.
*It will continue to get worse at a faster rate as the population increases,inflation soars and property markets continue to be impenetrable.
*The cornerstone of these strategies must be more social housing. We cannot house people without homes. Homes that are safe, appropriate and affordable.
*At the intersection of poverty and domestic violence is the almost inevitable outcome of homelessness. The stark reality is that we are failing women and now, during National Homelessness Week, we need to raise our voices and say this is not okay on any level, whether human, economic, political or otherwise.
IS the real battle happening elsewhere? Like in boardrooms and cabinet offices … about how efficiently can the public sector divest themselves of assets in the inner city suburbs, and justify saying they are spending the proceeds elsewhere?
DO we notice there’s no mention of people, social responsibility, community and reducing the backlog of the housing wait list?
The eccentric birdman who’s beating Australia’s biggest landlord
Peter “Pierre” Gawronski, a public housing tenant, was summoned to a meeting with NSW housing officials last week. He arrived with Caesar, a rainforest parrot, on his shoulder.
Peter Gawronski has won at least 10 cases at tribunal in the past three years
Public housing blocks like his have recently been sold off in inner-city Sydney
David Bott, another housing tenant, received an electric shock but had to wait 14 years for the problem to be fully fixed
*“It’s all right, he won’t bite you,” Mr Gawronski told the officials, trying to put everyone at ease.
*Caesar didn’t bite. Instead, he ambled across the table, up and onto the shoulders of one of the housing officials, and opened his peach-yellow beak and regurgitated his breakfast onto the hand of one of the men sitting opposite.
Mr Gawronski shuffled in his seat. “He actually likes you, it’s a term of endearment,” he said.
Recently, the so-called “birdman” has become known for more than just Caesar. He’s won at least 10 legal actions against the NSW Land and Housing Corporation in three years at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
He accomplished this while representing himself, with no computer, no legal training, and armed only with a high school education.
“Tenants are very reluctant to actually say anything to housing, but because I walk around with Caesar on my shoulder everyone speaks to me — they fall in love with Caesar, he charms them and they’ll tell me everything,” he said.
His actions have resulted in real change for his neighbours. Earlier this year, the housing department was ordered to undertake a full review of the waste management on the site and is now considering overhauling garbage disposal at the 70-year-old buildings.
Prosecuting a case can prove costly for many public housing tenants, according to Leo Patterson Ross, a policy officer from the Tenants Union of NSW.
“A tenant in public housing is an individual going up against the largest landlord in Australia,” he said.
When he woke up, he was confused and tangled in the shower curtain with a hole in his elbow. He’d received a severe electric shock.
Water leaks had touched live wires and electrified the handrail.
Mr Bott was furious. He had told his landlord about the water leaks and little had been done.
*It took the department another 14 years to finally fix the problem. In total, he said he complained around 20 times over those years, even taking his cases to NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal and getting orders against the department.
“Realistically it would have been far cheaper for me to pay a building crew to come in and fix my property,” he said.
*But even the tribunal orders failed to make the department fix the problem. Mr Bott eventually resorted to pursuing the department for contempt.
“I couldn’t breathe in captivity unfortunately and the closest I’m going to have to children or family are my birds,” he said.
He admitted he has had run-ins with the law including assault and drug charges from the 1980s and another assault charge just two years ago, after an argument with a neighbour.
He has also clashed with housing officials, receiving two warning letters, including one for threatening an officer — an allegation he denies.
“I’ve never been aggressive once, I’ve never ever threatened them,” he said.
Mr Gawronski’s biggest fear is that his home will be taken away from him. His estate, which sits in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the hands of the right developer.
In recent years, the NSW Government has resorted to selling off ageing inner-city public housing to raise money and build new, modern, housing.
Earlier this year, the Sirius building — a former public housing block in The Rocks — was sold for $150 million. In the nearby waterfront suburb of Millers Point, 189 public housing properties have been sold for a combined $600 million.
The NSW Department of Communities and Justice, responsible for housing, insist there are no plans to sell Mr Gawronski’s estate.
Newstart recipient Karryn Smith, 58, considers herself “one of the lucky ones”, yet the former school teacher is living out of her car.
Every night, Ms Smith searches for somewhere safe to park, and with any luck, will find a spot near a public toilet that keeps its doors unlocked overnight.
Public showers are a “rare” find, so she’ll sometimes go without.
Finding a comfortable hotel, let alone a permanent rental, has been impossible on just $20 a day.
“At the moment, I don’t see a future. You hear of people they find dead and with nobody there, I sort of think, is that how I’m going to end up?” Ms Smith said.
“There’s nothing that you can look forward to, being in my situation. You just sort of exist I guess.”
Ms Smith shared her tragic story with The New Daily, as pressure continued to mount on the Morrison government to lift the dole payment by $75 a week amid evidence Newstart recipients are struggling to survive.