Mission Australia CEO James Toomey in response to the ABS Census Homelessness data released today said:

“I am not at all surprised that the homeless figures have increased to more than 116,000. It’s what our services and others across the sector have experienced for years.

“It is an international embarrassment caused by the long-term absence of a national co-ordinated plan and the lack of a serious commitment to building new social and affordable homes. We cannot afford to ignore this situation any longer. Safe and secure housing provides the platform for children to attend school, adults to work, people to be healthy and communities to thrive.

“The housing market is not delivering for those on the lowest and even moderate incomes. The lack of appropriate social and affordable housing is very clearly evidenced in the alarming rise in overcrowding, particularly in NSW, where the housing market has seen some of the most significant price rises.

“Let us not forget that behind those numbers are thousands of men, women and children who are living in the most precarious situations, forced to sleep on the street, or in a car or on a couch at a friend’s house or to live in severely overcrowded dwellings. Homelessness forces people into vulnerable and dangerous situations and unsuitable transient places.”

The solution:

“We know what works. We need a coherent national strategy and a long term commitment from government to build new social and affordable homes. This requires commitment from all governments the corporate sector, charities and individuals.

“To even begin to house those who are in need, we require the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to commit to the building of 300,000 new social homes and 200,000 affordable rental properties across Australia by 2030. This must include measures to harness private sector investment and ensure investors have surety around the future viability of their investments through long-term and consistent subsidy from governments. But it also requires localised housing targets to ensure new developments meet the needs of all the community.

“We also need sustainable and innovative housing solutions. Ultimately this needs the government to work with the private and non-government sector to build diverse and healthy communities. It is of vital importance that new social and affordable homes are created within communities of opportunity, with infrastructure connected to education, training and support services.

“The national plan must also tackle the contributors to individual homelessness including family violence, poverty, disability and mental health issues. Our evidence shows a Housing First model works to address chronic homelessness, ensuring homeless people are rapidly rehoused and then supported to maintain that housing by dealing with the underlying contributors. Of course, such models only work if there are homes for people to move into.”

Mission Australia’s key recommendations:
  • Commit to a national plan to end homelessness by 2030 that addresses the drivers of homelessness including family violence, poverty and the lack of affordable housing and rapidly rehouses people who are homeless and supports them to maintain that housing. This should be developed in consultation with the homelessness sector and with people experiencing homelessness.
  • Develop a coherent national strategy to deliver 300,000 new social homes and 200,000 affordable rental properties by 2030. This needs to include a long-term and consistent subsidy from government, so that investors have surety around the future viability of their investments. Renewal of social housing that has been left to languish without vital maintenance and repairs also needs to be a priority.
  • Review tax breaks provided to property investors and re-direct savings to social and affordable housing in order to significantly boost supply.
  • Provide a 30% increase in the maximum value of Rent Assistance for all recipients of that payment to address rental stress and decrease the risk of homelessness.
  • Progress welfare reform to simplify payments and ensure adequacy of supports.
  • Invest in new housing stock in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to address overcrowding. This should be delivered through Indigenous Community Housing organisations and designed in close consultation with the local Aboriginal community.

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'