The latest announcements from Shelter WA
Shelter WA, Circle Green Community Legal and independent housing and tenancy law experts have released a detailed rebuttal to claims made by the Real Estate Institute of WA (REIWA) on the impacts of reforms to WA’s rental laws, as the Make Renting Fair campaign relaunches this week.
Significant consultation has been undertaken by Consumer Protection over the past three years, including a detailed discussion paper which sought input on key issues for reform, including improving security of tenure for tenants, removing ‘no grounds’ terminations, introducing minimum standards, the right to keep pets and make minor modifications, and improving the dispute resolution process.
“The real estate industry has claimed that the impact of two particular changes going ahead- the removal of no grounds evictions and allowing renters to make minor modifications like adding a picture hook – will cause thousands of investors to sell their properties, leading to a shortfall in rental properties, which in turn will cost the government over one billion dollars to fill the gap with additional social housing,” Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie said.
“These claims are ridiculous, but our worry is they’re unnecessarily scaring the community about really wonderful changes and benefits fair laws would bring to renters and landlords alike.”
In response to claims made in public by REIWA, Shelter WA commissioned an independent review by a number of academic and tenancy law experts, with input from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) Curtin Research Centre and Dr Chris Martin from the City Futures Research Centre, UNSW Sydney to investigate the claims made by REIWA.
The review considered five claims made by REIWA, and found:
“The review concluded that the negative impacts predicted are inaccurate, exaggerated, and have not been observed in other jurisdictions where similar reforms have taken place. Put simply, the predictions by REIWA are not reliable,” Dr Chris Martin said.
“No-grounds evictions give cover to discrimination and retaliation. Reasonable landlords don’t need them but they make all tenants less secure in their homes.
“Just this month the ACT announced it intends to remove no-grounds evictions altogether and has released a draft bill for consultation.
“WA is currently lagging behind most of the rest of the country on security for tenants. Getting rid of no-grounds evictions would mean WA leading on tenure security and being a place where people can genuinely make a home in rental housing.”
Changes to improve security of tenure and help make the house feel more like a home are timely given the acute rental and cost of living crisis we face in Western Australia.
The latest data from SQM research show a rental vacancy rate of just 0.6 per cent across the entire Perth metropolitan area, while Perth average rents have increased 30 per cent since April 2021.
“WACOSS has been hearing from community service organisations right across the sector that, rental stress is the number one cause for households seeking emergency relief to simply put food on the table and keep their lights on,” Louise Giolitto, CEO WA Council of Social Services said.
“We are seeing the negative impact of the lack of security of tenure leading to evictions and lack of regulation around rent increases. We know of many cases where rents have been increased by up to $150 in one year, and those tenants were forced into homelessness,” Sara Kane, CEO Circle Green Community Legal said.
“We strongly welcome any changes to improve the security and wellbeing of Western Australia’s 700,000 renters,” Ms Kane said.
“Here at home hundreds of thousands of renters can be evicted at short notice, without any reason, which hangs over their heads constantly and puts them in fear of requesting repairs and maintenance,” Ms Mackenzie said
“WA’s tenancy laws do not meet the contemporary needs of tenants, many of whom rent for life, and we urge the government to ignore this scare campaign, end this outdated practice and embrace the positive changes made in other states,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“Why is it still legal in WA for families to be evicted from their homes for no reason?” Ms Mackenzie concluded.
Fast facts and No grounds evictions and fixed term evictions clarifier
Read the Response to the REIWA ‘Synergies’ report here.
Available for Interview
Dr Chris Martin is an expert on Australian residential tenancies law and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and (02) 9065 7501 or 0407 065 760.
Michelle Mackenzie, CEO Shelter WA, via Chantal Caruso at 0447 201 377.
An online hub for Local Governments to share information and inform evidence-based homelessness solutions that respond to local community needs has been lauded as the first of its kind in Australia.
Led by housing and homelessness peak body Shelter WA, in partnership with the WA Local Government Association (WALGA) and Local Government Professionals (LGPro) the Local Government Homelessness Knowledge Hub is supported by Lotterywest.
The online platform brings together a range of resources to support Local Governments across WA to respond to homelessness.
Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie said the knowledge hub lived the values and spirit of ending homelessness in WA, by working together to solve the complex issues that cause homelessness.
“I’m so proud of this collaborative project that will support local governments to implement evidence-based homelessness solutions that respond to local community needs,” she said.
WALGA President Karen Chappel said the information would support Local Government staff working across a range of areas.
“Local Governments support initiatives that assist homeless people in our community across its various and diverse areas of responsibility including urban and regional planning, community safety and community development,” she said.
LGPWA CEO Candy Choo said this hub was born from an MOU between the organisations.
“A great example of the sector coming together.”
“The spirit of collaboration and knowledge sharing has always been strong between Local Governments, and this is another great example of the sector coming together to enhance the support it provides to the WA community,” she said.
The Hub will be launched as part of Homelessness Week 2022 at an event on Friday August 5 at 1.30pm at the Joondalup Reception Centre.
The City of Joondalup and the City of Wanneroo will also launch their second Regional Homelessness Plan. The new Plan demonstrates the joint City’s commitment to ending homelessness in the region and it will be delivered in partnership with Joondalup Wanneroo Ending Homelessness Group.
Sarah Quinton | 0439 439 233. email@example.com
The number of people experiencing homelessness who access government funded services in Western Australia has increased by 39 per cent over the last five years, with WA’s outback northern region seeing the highest rate of clients in Australia, new data reveals.
Compiled by the University of WA, Centre for Social Impact (CSI), the ‘Ending Homelessness in WA 2022’ report provides an overview of homelessness in Western Australia, a decade of data held by community agencies of those sleeping rough in WA and profiles the initiatives and programs driving to end homelessness in WA.
CSI Director Professor Paul Flatau said the data was drawn from the Census of Population and Housing, the WA Zero Project and government funded homelessness and housing support services called Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS).
“We have seen a steady incline of people experiencing homelessness accessing SHSs in Western Australia from 2,252 clients per month in 2017 to 3,131 clients per month in 2022 – that’s a 39 per cent increase,” he said.
“The data reflects an overrepresentation of people experiencing homelessness in regional WA relative to Perth. While only 6.3 per cent of Western Australians live in remote or very remote WA, 36 per cent of the clients who accessed SHS services, resided in remote or very remote areas, with the outback north having the highest rate in Australia.”
Professor Flatau said the data also showed a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Western Australian homeless population.
“While making up only 3.1 per cent of the general population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders form 29.1 per cent of the homeless population in the Census, Aboriginal people make up an even higher proportion of those receiving support form homeless services,” he said.
“The population of people experiencing homelessness in Western Australia is characterised by an over-representation of Aboriginal people who have experienced family or domestic violence, people with mental health issues, young people, and people with substance use issues.”
Within the report are the results of ten years of effort through the WA Zero Project and precursor the 50 Lives Campaign, which have provided information on the needs and vulnerabilities of people experiencing rough sleeping homelessness.
Professor Flatau will release the full report along with a launch of an online WA Homelessness Dashboard, displaying the latest statistics on the state of homelessness in WA and trends in the funding of homelessness services.
“Ending homelessness is possible.”
WA Alliance to End Homelessness (WAAEH) Executive Director David Pearson said the report provided a stocktake of where our efforts to end homelessness are at.
“Ending homelessness is possible, we know this because more and more communities around the world are demonstrating it,” he said.
“In Western Australia, we have a strategy for delivering an end to homelessness, and now we have a nation first dashboard for tracking our progress towards implementing it.”
“What the dashboard and report we are releasing today show is that we need to speed up the implementation of the homelessness strategy and along with investment into social housing, ensure sustainable funding of homelessness services to meet need.”
The launch on Tuesday, August 2, at 9:00am will be part of a robust program during Homelessness Week, 2022, which is being organised by the peak body for housing and homelessness, Shelter WA, centred around the theme of Housing, Health and Homelessness.
“We can end homelessness.”
Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie said the data exposed a real need for all stakeholders, and relevant government departments to build on the initiatives in the WA Homelessness Strategy and focus on a joined-up approach to address housing and health issues and their relationship to homelessness.
“We can end homelessness. Without suitable housing and appropriate wrap around supports, many people are trapped into a cycle of long-term homelessness,” she said.
“Homelessness Week will explore new ideas through workshops from local experts and keynote speeches from international leaders sharing their experience and knowledge.
“The week will forge a new conversation on the intersection between health, housing and homelessness by connecting a cross-section of government and community on a postpandemic systemwide response.”
Advance to Zero Results
A decade of community data collection of people experiencing homelessness
• 62% male, average age 40 years
• Women on the whole were younger than their male counterparts and experienced more significant
mental health and general health issues as well as violence on the streets
• 1 in 6 aged under 24
• 52% were rough sleeping (eg streets, parks, cars), 24% in temporary accommodation (eg couch surfing)
Time spent homeless
• For individuals, the mean time spent homeless was 64.1 months – over 5 years; for families, mean time spent homeless was 68.2 months – over 5.5 years. Looking at 2020-2022 data only, the mean time spent homeless has increased to 76.3 months for individuals.
• Many people who are homeless have experienced dangerous events while homeless: 56% have been a victim of attack; 50% have threatened to harm themselves or others; 35% have engaged in risky
behaviour such as exchange sex for money, run drugs, have unprotected sex with strangers or share a needle; and 33% had a person forcing them to do things they don’t want to do.
• 63.6% reported that they had interacted with police in the previous six months.
• 55.6% of respondents had been imprisoned at some point in their life.
• 58.4% report dental problems, 30% dehydration, 19.9% foot/skin infections.
• 34.1% report asthma, 27% heat stroke, 18.8% hepatitis C, 19.7% heart disease, 13.5% liver disease, 12.8% diabetes.
• 69,5% depression, 63.2% anxiety, 39.3% PTSD, 24.3% psychosis.
• 72.0% problematic drug or alcohol use, 39.1% consuming alcohol and/or drugs daily.
• 35% serious brain injury or head trauma.
• 51.6% had been hospitalised in the previous six months, 66.1% reported they had used Accident and Emergency, 55.6% had been taken to hospital by ambulance.
• The mean cost of use of selected healthcare services in the six months prior to survey among Western Australian respondents in the Advance to Zero database was $14,449. Rough sleepers reported higher utilisation of healthcare services than those who were not sleeping rough, thus their costs are slightly higher at $15,891 overall.
Sarah Quinton | 0439 439 233. firstname.lastname@example.org