Released on Monday 22 January 2024, the Productivity Commission’s latest Report on Government Services confirms that of the low-income households renting private homes, two in five (42.9%) were in rental stress and at risk of being pushed into homelessness in 2022-23, despite receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA).

The new report found more than a third (34.9%) of people seeking help from Specialist Homelessness Services who needed accommodation did not have their housing needs met. This is an increase compared with the previous rate of 33.9% in 2021-22.

The number of households on the waiting lists for social housing across Australia is at 224,326, with those identified with the greatest need increasing by four per cent to 106,534 compared to last year's figures.

In response, Mission Australia’s CEO Sharon Callister said: “This report confirms that cost-of-living and inflation pressures and rising rental stress are pushing more people into homelessness at a time when there’s very limited availability of affordable homes to rent. It’s increasing the risk of homelessness for many, including people in paid employment and those who are staring down the barrel of homelessness for the first time in their lives.

“There isn’t enough accommodation options for everyone who needs it, and these days, finding a rental that’s affordable is like finding a needle in a haystack.

“This is why the Federal Government must increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by at least 50% and lift income support payments to at least $78 a day to keep people who are in need out of poverty and help people in rental stress avoid homelessness.”

Ms Callister continued, “With such a dysfunctional housing system, it’s no wonder demand for Mission Australia’s homelessness and housing services increased by 26 per cent over the past three years.

“Our frontline staff say the housing situation is the worst they’ve seen it, with no signs of reprieve. Often homelessness service staff find it near impossible to help vulnerable families and individuals find safe, secure accommodation, because the housing stock just isn’t available.

“Even after much dialogue and distress caused by the cost-of-living and housing crisis, people are still making tough financial choices heading into 2024 – between putting food on the table, paying the power bill or paying the rent to keep a roof over their head.

“Investment in a new $500 million Prevention Transformation Fund would mean frontline staff could focus on helping people avoid homelessness in the first place and respond sooner with the right assistance and wrap-around supports that people need to stay housed and thrive. 

“We also urgently need a commitment to building at least one million new social and affordable homes over 20 years.

“Existing commitments by governments are expected to contribute around 50,000 social and affordable homes over the next five years. While we welcome this step forward, much more investment is needed to address the social and affordable home shortfall, long waiting lists and Australia’s homelessness emergency. 

“Australia is in the midst of a housing and homelessness disaster, and governments must tackle this problem like they would for any other emergency and natural disaster - with urgency, collaboration, targeted investment and steely resolve,” said Ms Callister.

Read more: Mission Australia’s submission to the National Housing and Homelessness Plan

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