New report finds housing stress in WA’s regions at unprecedented levels

Peak housing and homelessness body Shelter WA has released new data today that has found homelessness, and rental stress in WA’s regions at record levels.

The Heat Map Summary report was produced by Unlock Housing, a coalition of more than 30 housing and homeless service providers.

It found regional areas account for four out of WA’s Top Ten homelessness hotspots. These are the Kimberley, in first place, the Pilbara in second place, the North West Central region in seventh place, and Kalgoorlie in fourth place.

The report also found Mandurah and Bunbury to have the second and fifth highest proportion of renters in rental stress across WA’s 59 lower house electorates.

“These figures show there’s a crisis in our regions that’s only going to worsen if the government doesn’t take action now”

Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie said today.

“We have been calling on the government to commit to working with our sector to deliver 18,000 new social and affordable rental homes over the next four years to address the current gap, along with new initiatives to support renters to say in their homes and to end homelessness. This includes spot purchasing of 2000 homes as a priority. This is critical given the current state of the rental market and a predicted wave of rent increases and evictions when the rental moratorium ends in March.” Ms Mackenzie said.

“Victoria recently committed to a record $5.3 billion social housing plan to deliver 12,000 new homes in partnership with the community housing sector. This is the kind of leadership needs to be reflected here in WA”. Ms Mackenzie said.

The report follows the release of recent polling which found voters overwhelmingly support initiatives to end homelessness and increase rental and social housing. The results from the Homelessness Community Perceptions commissioned by Shelter WA found:

  • two thirds of voters reported that the issues of homelessness will be influential in their voting intention
  • homelessness is a top four issue the community would like the State Government to focus more on
  • 87% of voters would support initiatives that reduce the incidence of homelessness and 81% support the increase the amount of affordable rental housing in WA

“Now is the time to tackle this crisis head on. The community is strongly behind it, and the sector are united in our call for action”. Ms Mackenzie concluded.

 The Heatmaps tool can be found at https://www.unlockhousing.com.au/heatmaps/

A summary of our findings in regional lower house electorates is below.[i]

Kimberley

  • The rate of homelessness in the Kimberley is almost nine times higher than the WA average
  • The Kimberley has the highest number of people experiencing homelessness in the state.
  • Almost 14% of WA’s total population experiencing homelessness (estimated at 1207 people) are located in the Kimberley.
  • By contrast, the Perth lower house electorate has an estimated population of 464 people experiencing homelessness.

Pilbara

  • The rate of homeless in the Pilbara (2% of the Pilbara population) is five times higher than the WA average (0.4%)
  • The estimated total homeless population of 617 people accounts for a 7% of WA’s total homeless population
  • After the Kimberley, the Pilbara has the second largest population of homeless people in all of WA’s electoral districts
  • Meanwhile, a third (31%) of all residential dwellings are unoccupied (5367 homes)

Kalgoorlie

  • 29% of WA’s total population experiencing homelessness (2584 people) live in the Mining and Pastoral region, which covers the Kimberley, Pilbara, North West Central and Kalgoorlie districts.
  • The rate of homelessness in Kalgoorlie (0.98% of the Kalgoorlie population) is almost three times higher than the rate in the Perth Metropolitan area (0.36%)
  • There are an estimated 368 people experiencing homelessness in Kalgoorlie – the 8th highest number in WA
  • 12% renters are in rental stress (1749 out of a total 14,809 renters)

Geraldton

  • There are 172 people experiencing homelessness in Geraldton
  • 32% of renters are in rental stress (3887 out of a total 12,005 renters)
  • 18% of homeowners with a mortgage are in mortgage stress (2477 out of 13,415 mortgage owners)

Albany

  • There are 77 people experiencing homelessness in Albany
  • 35% of Albany’s renters are in rental stress (3732 renters out of 10,780)
  • 20% of owners with a mortgage are in mortgage stress (2375 out of 11,761)

The South West

  • Rental stress is very high in the South West (The South West Upper House seat covers Mandurah, Bunbury, Albany, Vasse, Warren-Blackwood and Murray-Wellington, and Collie-Preston districts.)
  • Overall, 38% of renters in the South West region are experiencing rental stress, with 28,975 lower income earners paying more than 30% of their income on rent
  • Homelessness is also very high in the South West region. 9% of the state’s homeless population (788 people) live in the South West. By contrast, the Perth lower house electorate has a population of 464 people experiencing homelessness.
  • Mandurah and Bunbury are in WA’s top ten areas for rental stress:
    • Mandurah ranks as the 2nd highest area for rental stress in the entire state. 46% of Mandurah’s renters (5927 out of 12947) are paying over 30% of their income on rent.
    • Bunbury ranks as the 5th highest area for rental stress in WA. 40% of renters in Bunbury are in rental stress 5606 out of 13,953 renters)

 Key Facts:

  • Over 9,000 people experience homelessness every day in WA
  • Over 30,000 people are on the wait list for social housing
  • Over 70,000 renters on low incomes are in rental stress (paying over 30% of income on rent)
  • There is a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across WA

Data source:  

The Heat Maps report and online tool shows the level of homelessness and housing stress for each state government lower house electorate (and upper house region) based on the 2016 ABS Census of Population and Housing. This data is used as it is the last comprehensive point in time data available. Since then, services have reported many more people at risk of homelessness, and renters are facing unprecedented difficulty trying to find an affordable home. 

Survey details:

The polling was conducted in February 2021 by Painted Dog Research group operating in line with the international standard for market, opinion, and Social Research (ISO 20252). The sample size is n=612 with a survey error of 3.96% at the 95% level of confidence. All survey participants were over 18 years of age and include residents from the Perth metropolitan area in all upper house electorates.  Raw data is available on request.

Unlock Housing Package:

The Unlock Housing coalition represents over 25 housing and homelessness service providers and has put forward a suite of solutions to address the housing crisis, at:  https://www.unlockhousing.com.au/our-solution

[i] It must be noted that the homeless data is an estimate, with the ABS acknowledging an undercount in the Census data. Services have reported seeing increased numbers of people who are experiencing homeless as a result of COVID-19.