Why the social housing crisis ‘needs serious attention’
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Why the social housing crisis ‘needs serious attention’

A new study has revealed that low-income people face decade-long waits for social housing, with state governments struggling to meet rising demand across the country.

Why the social housing crisis 'needs serious attention'

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) research into low-cost housing found that fewer than 30,000 applicants were accommodated across Australia in 2020-21, a 42 percent drop from 52,000 in 1991.

It marks a stunning 61 percent reduction in proportion to the national population, considering Australia’s growth from approximately 17 million people in 1991 to 26 million today.

The report found that the supply of social housing in Australia grew by just nine percent over the 2006-2020 period, much more than the homeless rate, which had increased by 30 percent over the 2006-2016 period.

The number of households experiencing rent stress rose by 85 percent from 2006-2020.

The report warns that the worst may be yet to come, with pressure on the cost of living and soaring rents likely to force more low-income people into social housing.

Camera IconThe worst of the social housing crisis is yet to come. NCA NewsWire/Ian Currie Credit: News Corp Australia

UNSW Professor Hal Pawson, who wrote the report, said initiatives by some state governments were encouraging but would only be effective if they received strong federal support.

The Victorian government set aside $5.3 billion last year to increase the supply of social housing over 10 years after Queensland embarked on its own 10-year strategy in 2017.

But Prof Pawson said this policy relied on being enforced for an extended period, which was unlikely without Commonwealth support.

“Australia’s social housing capacity has been declining for decades. Meanwhile, the magnitude of the need has continued to grow,” he said.

So it has become an unenviable challenge for states to ration this increasingly scarce

and lack of money.

“Today, in many parts of the country, only those with the most complex and serious needs stand a chance of being accommodated.”

According to Prof Pawson, camera IconPlans to build more social housing must be extended over a longer period. NCA NewsWire / Luis Enrique Ascui Credit: News Corp Australia

Since the housing crisis discussion has focused mainly on first-time homebuyers, Prof Pawson said it was important not to neglect low-income earners, whose hip pockets were taking a devastating blow amid soaring inflation.

“While most of the discussion about housing affordability continues to focus on the challenges faced by first-time homebuyers, the cost of living for many low-income renters is absolutely dire and also needs serious attention,” he said.

The next phase of the research will examine the struggles of low-income people waiting to be taken care of.

“We need to better understand the situations that trigger registration and how people manage to get through the process,” said Prof. Pawson.