Last week was challenging for many West Australians with three regions placed into lock down and residents having to flee from their homes because of the devastating Wooroloo bushfire. This week most people will have headed back to almost normal life with lock down lifted and the ability to freely leave their homes, whilst others face the heartbreak of returning to the remains of what was their home.
What has remained the same is the requests for emergency housing and accommodation which have spiked with many West Australians still with no place to call home. With the moratorium on evictions and rent increases ending in less than eight weeks (end of March) housing stress and homelessness is predicted to get a whole lot worse.
Renee Taylor had to leave her rental property last year at the beginning of the COVID crisis. Fearing the impact of COVID her landlord decided to sell the property. As a single mother of three Renee has found it almost impossible to get a private rental property.
Ms Taylor says she was frightened at the thought of becoming homeless and of having to leave the Rockingham community that had been her home for 17 years.
“I was going to viewing after viewing after viewing. Often there would be 30 to 40 people at each property and sometimes 20 people applying for the property,” Renee says.
“I was looking at having to put everything in storage and couch surfing for the first time in my life.
I was looking for a place from March and eventually secured a rental in September, by including my son on the lease. But I am paying a lot more rent than I would like. And there is talk of rents going up even more in March. I’m worried about how that will affect not only myself but everybody else as well.”
Ms Taylor, who works as a Family Housing Support Worker assisting families in crisis and those fleeing domestic violence, says the experience has shown her “the real struggle” that she and her clients face. She has also observed a significant increase in the number of people needing accommodation support.
“The number of people ringing looking for emergency accommodation and housing has increased dramatically. There’s a lot more people living in their cars and things like that because they cannot get a private rental,” Ms Taylor said.
“It’s time to address the housing crisis,” said Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA.
“A strong and robust social and affordable housing system is critical if we are to end homelessness, ensure everybody has a place to call home. Investment in housing will unlock opportunity providing everybody with the foundation for a good life. It also reduces the cost of homelessness on our community.”
“Unlock Housing proposes a package to invest in social and affordable housing, fix the housing system and end homelessness. As well as providing a diverse range of housing options and support services for those in need, this housing package will create around 32,000 jobs and stimulate the economy. Most importantly, it will improve the health, wellbeing and housing security of thousands of West Australians in housing stress,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“Shelter WA developed the Unlock Housing campaign, in partnership with the sector and people with lived experience of homelessness, with three core priorities that address the housing crisis and set us up for a bright housing future.”
“We are calling on all political parties to adopt our three core asks, so the thousands of people like Renee have a home and can keep a roof over their head” Ms Mackenzie concluded.
- Around 15,700 households are on the waitlist for social housing –over 30,000 people
- More than 1,000 people in WA sleep rough every night and another 8,000 are the ‘hidden homeless’ – people with no choice but to couch surf or sleep in their cars.
- WA renters are facing unprecedented difficulty trying to find a home, which will only get worse when the moratorium on rent increases and evictions ends in March 2021.
- The WA Housing Strategy 2020-2030 plans to create just 260 new social homes a year to meet this demand.
- The number of social housing properties in WA has declined, with a loss of 1155 properties since 2016/17, due to selling more social housing homes than we are building.
- There is a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across Western Australia to meet current need
About Shelter WA
Shelter WA is the independent peak body in Western Australia that advocates for social and affordable housing and ending homelessness.
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