Strategies for affordable housing and homelessness prevention must be urgent priorities

Action to address the need for affordable housing and reduce homelessness across NSW must be a higher priority from the Government, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and Housing spokesperson.

“New South Wales needs urgent, innovative action and a strong commitment of funding and support. The Government must ensure we see a growth in affordable housing that meets the changing needs of our population, including those who are ageing and people with disabilities,” Ms Barham said.

“Housing stress is not just about the cost of buying or renting. Although affordability is obviously a key challenge, it’s also about ensuring people are in homes that meet their needs, that developments and redevelopments throughout the state provide an adequate range of housing options, and that maintain people’s connections to their community.”

Ms Barham warned that the levels of homelessness in NSW highlight the need to support the state’s most vulnerable individuals and families, and ensure there was an ongoing plan to reduce the risk of homelessness. Recently the NSW upper house supported a motion that addressed homelessness and identified the need to focus on local solutions.

“A one-year extension to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness is a necessary stop-gap, not a solution. There needs to be an ongoing agreement. The NSW Government must commit to a long-term strategy for providing housing and services to those in need, and must also work with local government to ensure people have the best chance to find affordable, stable housing.”

“On Census night 2011, more than 28,000 people living in New South Wales were homeless, an increase of around 6,000 people since 2006, which is a more than 20% rise in the homelessness rate. But thousands more are living in marginal housing, including improvised dwellings, caravan parks and crowded homes, or couch surfing and are at risk of homelessness,” Ms Barham said.

“We must reverse the homelessness trend, address the factors that leave people vulnerable to homelessness and seek an ongoing funding agreement with the Commonwealth.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Motion on Homelessness, as passed by NSW Legislative Council on 21 March 2013:
1. That, while taking into account the inherent difficulties in accurately measuring the rates of homelessness, this House notes that:

 (a) according to the 2006 National Census, at least 27,374 people were considered homeless in New South Wales,
 (b) according to a 2009 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW) entitled “Counting the Homeless”, this figure can be broken down into the following categories:
  (i) primary homelessness: at least 3,715 people, or 13 per cent of respondents, were sleeping rough in improvised dwellings,
  (ii) secondary homelessness: at least 16,033 people, or 59% of respondents, were staying with friends or relatives, or in short term accommodation provided through formal assistance,
  (iii) tertiary homelessness: at least 7,626 people, or 28 per cent of respondents, were sleeping in facilities providing longer term accommodation such as boarding houses,
 (c) according to the same AIHW report, there is a significant incidence of homelessness among children and young people in New South Wales, with 10,587 of those counted aged under 24 (39 per cent),
 (d) according to the same AIHW report, the number of older homeless people is growing, with 30 per cent of the homeless in New South Wales aged 45 or older, up from 25 per cent in 2001,
 (e) it is widely estimated that over 7 per cent of the entire homeless population of New South Wales are Aboriginal, which is well above the 2.2 per cent of the total New South Wales Aboriginal population, and
 (f) documented rates of the prevalence of mental health issues in homeless people vary markedly but an extensive research paper published in 1998 by Hodder, Teeson and Burich entitled “Down and Out in Sydney” found that 75 per cent of participants in the study had at least one mental illness, compared to 20 per cent in the general population.

2. That this House further notes:

 (a) the report of the NSW Auditor General entitled “Responding to Homelessness”, dated May 2007,
 (b) the report of New South Wales Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues entitled “Homelessness and low-cost rental accommodation”, dated September 2009,
 (c) the Government’s subsequent response to the report of the Social Issues Committee’s inquiry, dated 2010, and
 (d) the revised National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness signed on 13 April 2012.

3. That this House welcomes:

 (a) the continuation of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Homelessness, and
 (b) the implementation of the revised Homeless Persons Protocol.

4. That this House encourages:

 (a) all local councils to have a nominated staff member tasked with the responsibility of ensuring their council adheres to the Homeless Persons Protocol, and
 (b) all local councils to report on local initiatives for addressing homelessness in their local government area in their annual report.

5. That this House calls for:

 (a) a review of the ten Regional Homeless Action Plans that were developed in July 2010, together with a progress report, and
 (b) consideration of a funding program to support local government to meet the needs of homeless people.