Spot purchasing urged as solution to “homelessness tsunami” expected when eviction moratorium lifts

Peak housing and homelessness body Shelter WA has called on both major parties to commit to ‘spot purchasing’ in advance of the lifting of the moratoriums on rental increases and evictions occurring in just over three weeks.

 “We are urging the government and opposition to commit to spot purchasing at least 2000 homes for rent over the next four years,” Shelter CEO Michelle Mackenzie said today.

“All the signs are there for a second wave of homelessness once the moratorium on rental increases and evictions ends in March.

We have a perfect storm with house prices skyrocketing, a record low rental vacancy rate, residents returning from interstate and overseas as travel restrictions lift, and the acute shortage of social and affordable housing. Renters evicted when the moratorium lifts will simply have nowhere to live,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“At the Premier’s breakfast this week I asked how they’re planning to deal with the second wave of homelessness once the moratorium on rent hikes and evictions ends. The Premier said he doesn’t expect it will be as severe as people are predicting,” Ms Mackenzie said.

Shelter WA has written to the Premier seeking clarification on this response and asking if the government has done any modelling on the impact of the moratorium ending, and specifically the number of predicted evictions, rent increases and impact housing and homelessness service providers as a result of the moratorium ending.

“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. But we know new homes take time to build.

An immediate solution is to spot purchase homes– this is a sensible and prudent approach,” Ms Mackenzie said.

Spot purchasing would enable government to work with the private sector and the community housing sector to identify and purchase empty homes in existing developments. The community housing sector can manage these homes immediately increasing the supply of social and affordable housing.

This approach is supported by the tenant advocacy groups such as Circle Green, and the Financial Counsellors Association of WA, along with homeless services providers who see the devastating impact of rental stress and homelessness on individuals and families.

 “This spot purchasing needs to start right now to avoid another a surge of West Australians facing homelessness.”

“In addition to new housing we also need initiatives to keep people in their homes. This includes appropriately resourcing the residential relief grant scheme to give rental surety to landlords and renters and an increase in emergency relief money to enable the sector to support people doing it tough in the rental market,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“We know from discussions with the development industry that across metropolitan Perth 1,700 newly built apartments are currently available for sale. We also need solutions for regional WA. Given we have a housing supply issue, with low record interest rates, this is a perfect time for government to purchase housing to increase social and affordable rental homes for West Australians. This must be done while we plan for the construction of new social and affordable homes.”

“These homes if managed by the community housing sector will not only increase rental supply but will lay the foundation for community housing providers to further increase the supply of new rental homes. A win – win situation,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“Victoria recently committed to a record $5.3 billion social housing plan to deliver 12,000 new homes. 20% of these will be delivered through spot purchasing. This is the kind of leadership needs to be reflected here in WA,” Ms Mackenzie said.

The call for spot purchasing 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 (65%) reported that the issues of homelessness will be influential in their voting intention
  • over one third of 18–34-year old’s (38%) stated that a lack of affordable rental housing will have a major impact on their vote
  • 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.

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 their income on rent)
  • There is a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across WA

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:

Media Contact

Chantal Caruso | 0447 201 377 / (08) 9325 6660 |