Released on Tuesday 24 January 2023, the Productivity Commission’s newest Report on Government Services confirms that, of the low-income households renting private homes, 43.9% were in rental stress and at risk of being pushed into homelessness in 2021-22, despite receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA).

Further, more than a third (33.9%) of people seeking help from Specialist Homelessness Services who needed accommodation did not have their housing needs met. This is even higher (an increase of 1.6%) than the previous rate (32.3% in 2020-21).

In response, Mission Australia’s Executive of Practice, Evidence and Impact, Marion Bennett said: “It’s worrying that so many people and families across Australia are enduring escalating cost-of-living pressures and skyrocketing rental stress at a time when there’s scarce availability of affordable homes to rent. It’s increasing the risk of homelessness for many people - some for the first time in their lives.

“Australia’s situation is dire because there aren’t enough accommodation options for everyone who needs it. Securing an affordable rental has become a near-impossible feat, right across the country.

“Mission Australia’s homelessness support workers, and others like ours, are finding it increasingly impossible to help vulnerable families and individuals find safe accommodation – because the housing stock simply isn’t there.

“When paid employment is not enough for many Australians to guarantee a safe and secure place to live, then it’s undeniable the rental market is at absolute breaking point.

“It means we’re going into 2023 with people and families still having to make tough decisions between paying for food, or bills, or transport, or the rent or to sacrifice other essentials.

“As we head towards the Federal Budget in May, our Government must lead the way. Recently, the Prime Minister said, ‘extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures’ when announcing intervention in the domestic coal and gas markets to tackle soaring cost-of-living with energy bills.

I call on our Prime Minister to maintain that sense of urgency and boldness with the cost-of-living pressures around housing when developing the National Housing and Homelessness Plan and negotiating the next housing and homelessness funding agreement with the States and Territories.

“Access to an affordable, safe and secure home is crucial for people to survive and thrive amid whatever challenges lay ahead. This new report confirms this, with the majority of social housing respondents saying they experienced wellbeing, social connection and economic participation opportunities through living in social housing,” said Ms Bennett.

The most common benefits that social housing tenants self-reported were feeling more settled and being able to manage rent/money better.

Ms Bennett continued, “It’s clear we need far more long-term investment in social and affordable homes than existing commitments will generate – so that once and for all we can address the social and affordable home shortfall, long waiting lists and the resulting homelessness crisis.

“We also need to make sure that we have a system in place that prevents homelessness from occurring in the first place, and works swiftly to help people if they do become homeless.”

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