71,000 affordable homes needed in regional NSW

Greens spokesperson on Affordable Housing Jan Barham has called on the NSW Government to address the shortfall of 71,000 affordable homes in regional NSW.

“Unaffordable housing is not just a Sydney issue. Right now, there are thousands of households across regional NSW that are struggling to pay the rent”, said Ms Barham.

“Latest data shows that 71,000 low-income renter households in regional NSW are in housing stress. They are paying more than 30 per cent of their income on household costs, which, for many, means foregoing other essential goods and services to keep a roof over their head.”

“NSW is experiencing gentrification of not only city-based suburbs but also in some coastal regional areas, which are suffering from affordable housing crisis due to the popularity of locations.”

“As at December 2014, only 23,964 dwellings were considered affordable for a low-income household in regional NSW. In Coffs Harbour, 10.6% of rentals were affordable for a very-low income household and in Byron that figure was 3.7%[1].”

“This data is consistent with Anglicare Australia’s mapping of rental affordability in regional areas. Its latest report showed that while there is greater availability of affordable rentals for people earning the minimum wage, most households on income support payments cannot afford rent in the regions[i].”

Ms Barham said that the lack of affordable housing in the regions means that people are resorting to living in overcrowded housing, caravans and their cars because they cannot find an affordable home.

“It’s unacceptable that in NSW we have people living in caravans and cars because of the huge shortage of social and affordable housing. These circumstances impact on people’s wellbeing as housing stress equates to emotional stress. More must be done with planning rules to support those who are vulnerable in this current housing crisis.”

“The data shows that while the NSW Government’s announcement of 6,500 additional social and affordable dwellings is a good first step, it barely scratches the surface of what’s needed to address the affordable housing crisis across the state.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

 

  1. Number of NSW renting households in housing stress outside of Sydney

Table 1 

This graph shows that in the 2011 Census, 45,217 very-low income households (those earning less than 50% of the median income for the area) pay more than 30% of their income in rent and associated household costs. Very-low income households generally receive a pension or other income support payment. The graph also shows there were 26,456 low-income households in housing stress. Low income households earn more than 50% but less than 80% of the median income for the area. These totals exclude the Sydney area.

  1. Percentage of housing stress in selected NSW regions

Table 2 

Almost all very-low income households in NSW areas outside of Sydney are in housing stress, with 87% paying more than 30% of their income on household costs. Low-income households fare better, but the majority (54%) are considered to be in housing stress.

  1. Percentage of affordable rental stock for people on very low and low incomes, selected NSW regions

Table 3

There is some variation in the selected NSW regions in affordability of rental stock, with North Coast regions showing limited availability, particularly for very-low income households. The selected inland areas showed higher rates for both very-low and low income households, but affordable stock still fell short of demand.

  1. Numbers of very-low and low-income households in housing stress and the number of affordable rental housing stock, selected regions, December 2014

Untitled

This graph illustrates the shortfall of affordable rental housing in the selected regions to meet demand. The number of very-low and low-income households exceeds the number of affordable rental stock as at June 2011. While this data is slightly outdated, the number of affordable rental housing stock for low-income households as at December 2014 has declined in all the selected regions except for Orange, Dubbo and Albury, which saw slight increases.

 

Data collated using the Housing Kit Data Base, http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/centre-for-affordable-housing/nsw-local-government-housing-kit/local-government-housing-kit-database/2011-census-database

[1]Households described as being ‘very low income’ are those earning less than 50 percent of the NSW or Sydney median income, depending on where they live.

Households earning more than 50 percent but less than 80 percent of the NSW or Sydney median income are described as earning a ‘low income’ (http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/centre-for-affordable-housing/about-affordable-housing/who-are-very-low-to-moderate-income-earners)

[i] Anglicare Australia (2015) ‘Rental Affordability Snapshot’ http://www.anglicare.asn.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/rental-affordability-snapshot-2015.pdf p.5

Historic step towards Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

On January 19th, an expert panel handed the Prime Minister a unanimous report recommending five important changes to the Australian Constitution to appropriately recognise our indigenous people. Jan warmly welcomes these proposed changes and thanks everyone who took part in the public consultation process, in particular the panel members including the Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Rachel Siewert. Jan looks forward to all levels of government working together to take this important issue to a referendum.

A copy of the full Report can be found at: http://www.youmeunity.org.au/final-report

A summary and analysis of the report from Jan’s office can be found here:  Briefing Paper – Constitutional Recognition Report

Homelessness Week

National Homelessness Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness across the community of issues surrounding homelessness and to provide activities and services for those working in the homelessness sector and those affected by homelessness. We are all aware of the public and tragic face of homelessness. We all pass the huddled figures in our streets every day—almost literally on our doorstep of Parliament House—curled up in sleeping bags in Martin Place or huddled on the steps of the State Library. They are just some of the estimated 3,559 people of New South Wales who sleep rough each night. National Homelessness Week is a chance for us to think about the less visible aspects of homelessness: the 10,950 people in our State who are forced to rely on family and friends for a bed each night, the 5,201 using crisis accommodation and refuges, and the 7,665 living in boarding houses on a medium-term to long-term basis

They are the harsh figures of homelessness in our State—in total at the last census in 2006, nearly 28,000 people in New South Wales were classified as homeless. But even that figure is probably an underestimate as one of the consistent challenges facing those working in the homelessness sector is the lack of reliable data. Accurate and credible figures are integral to understanding homelessness not only so we can measure the extent of the problem but also so we can also evaluate the effectiveness of services. I note this week that the Minister for Family and Community Services launched the Platform 70 Program in Woolloomooloo. I commend the Government for supporting that program which aims to provide housing and support services to 70 chronically homeless people in this area of Sydney. This concept of combining accommodation with essential support services is exactly what non-government organisations such as Mission Australia have been calling for.

On Monday Mission Australia detailed that its frontline staff spent more time helping people with mental health issues than helping people with homelessness issues. This has prompted calls for the model for shelters to be modified to incorporate the provision of essential services. This move towards shelters providing easy access to services is not new to me. I will give an example from my home Byron Bay area. In Byron Bay a house is used as a drop-in centre for homeless people. It is a joint venture of the Byron Bay Community Centre, the Salvation Army, St Vincent’s de Paul and Byron Shire Council. The cottage provides a shelter, the safe storage of personal belongings and access to a variety of services. It is a case of the service providers coming to those in need rather than the expectation that those people make their way to the disbursed services in the area. This example could be replicated across the State, and I would welcome the opportunity to speak with other members about how it can be implemented while we await the long-term program of trying to provide housing for all people in New South Wales.

This move towards a coordinated and person-centred approach to homelessness is completely consistent with priority 6 of the New South Wales Homelessness Action Plan to streamline access to crisis accommodation and specialist homelessness services. This State Action Plan, named “A Way Home”, was released by the State Government in 2009 and lays out some ambitious targets, namely a reduction of 7 per cent in the overall level of homelessness in New South Wales by 2013, a reduction of 25 per cent in the number of people sleeping rough in New South Wales by 2013 and a reduction of one-third in the number of Aboriginal people that are homeless in New South Wales by 2013. These targets are commendable and the strategies outlined to meet them centre around three key approaches: preventing people from being at risk, responding quickly and effectively to homelessness when it occurs, and ensuring people who have been homeless do not become homeless again.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in a position of homelessness—domestic violence, family violence, financial hardship, mental illness or sometimes an unfortunate run of hard luck. For those who find themselves in such a position it is more than just having no bed or food for the night; it is a lack of security and privacy, and a profound sense of isolation and disengagement. In conclusion, I wish to mark this National Week of Homelessness by thanking the hundreds of workers across our State—both paid and volunteers—who do their best every day to assist the homeless. Their patience, compassion and dedication are to be commended.