Social Housing needed to end Homelessness in WA

Skyrocketing rents, a tightening of the rental market and widespread job losses have increased the urgent need for more social housing across Western Australia.

Prior to COVID-19 there was a shortfall of 32,000 social housing properties to meet people’s need, said Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA. And with the economic impact of COVID upon us there is even greater need for more social housing to prevent a new wave of homelessness.

Social housing is an important safety net said Ms Mackenzie. It includes public housing, which is managed by the State Government and community housing which is managed by community-based agencies. Social housing enables people to have an affordable place to call home and is key to preventing homelessness.

Ms Mackenzie said the COVID 19 crisis had pushed record numbers of West Australians into financial difficulty, leading to rental and mortgage stress and homelessness.

But she said creating more social housing, either through building new properties or accessing these through the private rental market would be a win-win situation for not only those struggling to find somewhere to call home but also for social and economic recovery.

“There has never been a better time for government to invest in social housing,” Ms Mackenzie said. We only have around 40,000 social housing properties across the State and the percentage of social housing properties has been steadily declining. This investment will drive recovery, support people who are doing it tough and deliver enduring social value.

Harnessing the strengths of the community housing will be critical to maximizing any investment said Ms Mackenzie. As an independently regulated sector, community housing organisations have high standards of governance and importantly their business models channel profits back into properties and programs which results in new supply.

She said the Commonwealth needs to seize the opportunity to drive recovery efforts through new social housing investment.  Shelter WA supports the Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP) launched by national peaks which would see an additional 30,000 homes built and thousands more renovated, increasing social housing supply whilst creating new jobs.

“Importantly though, SHARP will be delivered by community housing organisations who will create partnerships and leverage this investment to deliver new supply said Ms Mackenzie.

If government is serious about creating opportunity for all Australians, everybody must have a place to call home.

As this Homelessness Week draws to an end, we are urging the Federal and State Government to increase investment in social housing, creating thousands of new jobs and pipelines of work while delivering the homes that many Western Australian need.

FAST FACTS

  • It’s estimated over 9,000 West Australians experience homelessness every night.
  • Of these 1,083 people were sleeping rough and 1,208 were under twelve years of age.
  • Specialist Homelessness Services support around 4,300 people every day across WA.
  • 2 out of 3 requests for accommodation via specialist homelessness services are currently unable to be met.
  • 5-per cent of rough sleepers reported that they had been a victim of assault since they had become homeless.
  • The top three reasons people sought assistance from specialist homelessness services were:
    • 42 per cent due to domestic and family violence.
    • 38 per cent due to financial difficulties.
    • 25 per cent housing crisis.
  • There are over 14,000 households on the waitlist for social housing in WA – with an average wait time of over 2.5 years.
  • There are only 1,144 crisis and transitional beds available in WA.
  • Shortfall of 32,000 social homes to meet current need.

To arrange an interview with our CEO Michelle Mackenzie, please contact Heather Bush, Head of Communications and Marketing here.