Let’s create affordable housing, not more homelessness

| August 8, 2018

During Homelessness Week, the Australian Council of Social Service is joining the Everybody’s Home campaign to call on the Federal Government to develop, as a matter of urgency, a national housing strategy and plan to end homelessness by 2030.

Many households in Australia are paying 30% or more of their income on housing and rental costs. This situation is forcing people into insecure rental housing and homelessness. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Australia already has 116,000 people who are homeless, yet there are clear pathways to reducing and eradicating homelessness in Australia by reforming the tax system and giving renters a fairer deal.

Our tax system disproportionately benefits people on higher incomes through negative gearing, capital gains tax discounts and tax avoidance schemes, while younger people face high rents and high house prices, which makes saving a home near impossible.

Household wealth has shifted from younger to older people over the last 12 years, with the wealthiest 20% owning over 80% of all wealth in investment properties and shares, and 54% of all wealth in family homes.

The age of people who own homes has changed remarkably over the last 50 years, with those under 44 years much less likely to own their own homes, while the older population are relatively untouched.[1]

The relatively equal distribution of owner-occupied housing wealth across household income groups is a legacy of the high home ownership rate among older people (who tend to have lower incomes). This is likely to change in future as a growing share of new cohorts of older people do not own their home (or still have substantial mortgage debt).

Of particular concern are women over 55 who have little superannuation, are underemployed or unable to find paid work, or have been widowed, separated or have left a domestic violence relationship.

This cohort are the fastest growing group of homeless in Australia, and similar to the increasing number of younger homeless people (two-in-five of those who are homeless are under 25 years), reflects the need for immediate solutions to the housing crisis.

There are solutions we could begin tomorrow.

Rent Assistance must be increased to ensure it best meets the needs of people on low incomes in the private rental market. Newstart also needs to be increased.

A new rental incentive should be designed to encourage investment in new rental stock for low income households by bridging the finance gap.

We need to reform tax incentives that drive up the price of housing so that we can make homes affordable.

Renting also needs to become a decent long term housing option. Urgent reform of rental laws are needed to provide greater security of tenure, and decent living conditions, including minimum standards of accessibility and energy efficiency.

Homelessness can be eradicated in this wealthy country of ours. However the government continues to make the choice to increase homelessness in Australia by doing nothing. This must stop – today. We must end homelessness.”

SHARE WITH:
Cassandra Goldie

Cassandra Goldie has been ACOSS CEO since July 2010. With public policy expertise in economic and social issues, civil society, social justice and human rights, she has represented the interests of disadvantaged people in several national and international processes as well as in grassroots communities.