Multi-pronged policy response to homelessness

27 August 2022

This piece was first published in Canberra Weekly on Saturday 27 August 2022.

Each night in Canberra, devastatingly, many people face homelessness. They could sleep rough on our freezing streets, in a car or emergency accommodation, or couch surf between friends’ places.

This issue is raised with me frequently as a local representative, whether by people seeking accommodation, by local organisations struggling to meet demand for support, or Canberrans concerned about increasing numbers in our community without a permanent home.

Recently, a volunteer in a local organisation told me the best they can do at the moment, given the demands on accommodation services, is to cover the registration for people living in their cars.

Homelessness Australia have found that, in 2020-21, almost 110,000 people went to homeless services needing long-term housing. This was only provided to 3.4 per cent of those needing help, and a further 26.9 per cent were referred to housing providers. More than 76,000 people missed out.

Addressing homelessness requires national leadership, and a multi-pronged policy response.

Housing was a central part of Federal Labor’s election platform and is now a central priority of the new Labor Government. Labor wants every Australian to know the security of having a roof over their head. Prime Minister Albanese is deeply committed to this.

Labor will create the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund which will build 20,000 social housing properties – 4,000 for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes at risk of homelessness. A further 10,000 affordable homes will be built for frontline workers.

Our government will establish a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, to increase housing supply and improve housing affordability.

The Help to Buy scheme will cut the cost of buying a home by up to 40 per cent, meaning 10,000 Australians can buy their own homes sooner.

A National Housing and Homelessness Plan will set out the short-, medium- and longer-term reforms needed to make it easier for all Australians to have a home.

This national leadership has been called for many years by stakeholders from the Property Council to the Australian Council of Social Service. It will be developed with states and territories, local government, not-for-profit and civil society organisations, industry bodies, superannuation funds and other experts in housing, finance, and urban development.

Strong social security and health systems also play an important part in addressing homelessness.

Stable and safe housing is fundamental for people to live with dignity and health, and for social, educational and employment outcomes. It should be accessible for all Australians, and I’m proud that this a key objective of the Albanese Labor Government.

This piece was first published in Canberra Weekly on Saturday 27 August 2022.