Eviction Emergency – Emergency Budget needed

Eviction Emergency – 146 tenancy hearings in three days, thousands of families facing homelessness as winter approaches – Emergency Budget needed

The Housing Emergency Response Group has released new data on the number of tenancy hearings in the Magistrates Court that is of immense concern. 

Based on public data on the number of tenancy cases listed in the Magistrates Court, we can report that there have been 146 hearings in the last three days, including:

Tuesday, May 18: 31 Cases               
Wednesday, May 19: 63 Cases
Thursday, May 20: 52 Cases

Among the many cases, we have heard of:

  • a single mother with late-stage cancer and a spinal injury facing eviction from a private rental and has been told the priority waitlist for a social home is three years.
  • a family of four and their pet dog sleeping in their car and using emergency relief funding to pay for their car registration to ensure they have a place to sleep.
  • a volunteer-run Wildlife Refuge facing closure after eviction from their property, with the animal carer facing homelessness.

Housing Emergency Response Group spokesperson Mark Glasson, CEO of Anglicare WA said:

Families are being separated. People are moving their items into storage but have nowhere to go themselves. We need an immediate emergency response to keep people in their homes or to ensure that they have a home.

Meanwhile today we learnt the WA Budget surplus is set to reach a record $5 billion. The Housing Emergency Response Group has sent an Open Letter to the Premier with pragmatic, achievable solutions that could be implemented immediately to prevent thousands of families becoming homeless this winter. This includes the spot purchases of vacant homes and using suitable government land coupled with the construction of modular homes in partnership with the community housing sector to rapidly increase housing supply.

Housing Emergency Response Group spokesperson Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA said:

“Western Australia’s housing crisis is rapidly escalating. Figures released this week show record evictions in April. Court records suggest that May is set to be even worse. Winter is coming, services are overwhelmed, and there is no respite in sight.”

Budget Surplus

In 2021, WA has a budget surplus set to reach $5 billion. Meanwhile, thousands of families are facing a winter without somewhere safe to shelter or a stable home for their children. Evictions are at record highs and the supply of social and affordable private rental housing is at record lows. WA is in a state of housing emergency and we need an emergency budget in response. And whilst we rapidly build, and plan for pipelines of new supply, we need to support families to stay in their homes with the surety of ongoing emergency relief funding. We need thousands of more affordable rental homes to provide a safe place for families to raise their children. Thousands of WA families are facing homelessness tonight, tomorrow and for years into the future.

Social Housing

Importantly, we need more social housing. Social housing stock has declined by more than 1000 over the past four years. There are now more than 16,000 households on the waitlist. That number has risen sharply in recent months, and we heard from one mother today, a cancer patient recovering from surgery, who has been told that she faces a three year wait even on the priority social housing waitlist. Labor governments in Victoria and federally have recently committed to major social housing stimulus builds. This is good social and economic policy that provides ongoing dividends to government. If this were a natural disaster, we would see an immediate emergency response. It’s time we use the resources at our disposal to end this crisis in 2021.

Work with Government

The Premier’s leadership and hard work during the COVID pandemic to keep Western Australians safe is strongly commended. COVID-19 showed the importance of home to keep everybody safe and well. Housing is the foundation for a safe, strong and stable society, and provides the platform for opportunity for all West Australians. The McGowan government has put some good initiatives in place such as the Residential Relief Grants Scheme, but too many people are falling between the cracks.

“This level of crisis requires a focused and dedicated emergency response. We look forward to working with government on the solutions we’ve proposed,” Ms Mackenzie said. The Housing Emergency Response Group is comprised of ten CEOs from organisations providing emergency relief funding, support to renters in the private rental market, and peak bodies formed to identify and drive immediate solutions in partnership with government to mitigate the impact and harm of the housing crisis. The Red Cross have reported

  • 50% of their client caseload (about 150 clients) have been served notices of eviction or rental arrears. Clients are sourcing alternative short term housing options such as living in cars, utilising tents, staying on people’s floors because they have no real possibility of securing a tenancy.
  • Families with children and individuals with a disability living in their cars because they cannot locate or secure a property and they are seeing a cohort of individuals never impacted by insecure housing now significantly at risk of housing trauma.
  • Clients are demonstrating significant trauma in the current housing situation. Many are reaching a period of realisation that there are ‘no’ options. Individuals are applying for multiple properties and being unsuccessful and negotiations with current real estate or landlords are not being successful due to the length of time the arrears and or relationship breakdown has existed. There is now a real likelihood of eviction which many have never faced before.

Circle Green Community Legal are reporting:

  • The number of total calls has increased by 500% to approximately 200 per day, with the majority being tenancy calls.

*We are encouraging all reporters covering this issue to provide the following details in the story*Tenants who require support can contact:

  • Consumer Protection – for evictions and tenancy advice – 1300 304 054
  • Circle Green Community Legal – for all tenancy advice – 6148 3636
  • Financial Counsellors of WA – for financial counselling https://financialcounsellors.org/public/ and National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007.
  • WAConnect.org.au – for emergency relief near you

Key Facts:

  • Between 2016/17 to 2019/20 public housing numbers declined by 1350 homes (Source: Department of Communities, 2021, see table below)
  • There is a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across WA to meet current need.
  • The WA rental vacancy rate is at a 40-year low.
  • There are over 30,000 people are on the wait list for social housing (15,825 applications at April 1, 2021) – an increase of 1000 applications in the last twelve months.
  • The priority waitlist for social housing has increased by 46%
  • At May 2021, the median rent for houses is $440, an increase of 19% in the last twelve months or $70 per week. The median rent for units is $390, having increased 15% in the last twelve months or $50 per week. (Source: REIWA 6 May 2021).

Media Contact Emma-Jane Morcombe | (08) 9263 2039 | emmajane.morcombe@anglicarewa.org.au

Social Housing Stock Numbers

Financial  Year Public Housing Numbers Community Housing Numbers Total Social Housing Numbers
2014-15 36,644 6,774 43,418
2015-16 36,403 6,793 43,196
2016-17 36,963 7,124 44,087
2017-18 36,587 7,276 43,863
2018-19 36,297 7,318 43,615
2019-20 35,613 7,319 42,932