Albanese’s $10bn pledge pushes housing needs back into the limelight


Hal Pawson, UNSWOpposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech last night highlighted Australia’s huge unnmet need for social and affordable housing. It’s once again shaping up as a major election issue. Labor is proposing a A$10 billion program to build 30,000 social and affordable homes over five years.

The immediate backdrop for the pledge is a post-COVID house price boom, and a continuing dearth of Commonwealth investment in new non-market housing. That is, rentals affordable to low-income Australians and provided by government agencies or non-profit community housing organisations.

Amid the many new spending plans revealed in Tuesday’s budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg maintained the government’s resistance to an ever-wider coalition of voices calling for social housing stimulus.




Read more:
Why more housing stimulus will be needed to sustain recovery



Conversation Economic Society of Australia survey, September 2020

Just how big is the problem?

With borders largely closed since March last year, it’s true that sharply reduced migration has temporarily dampened rental housing demand over the past 15 months. That in turn has generally subdued increases in rents. However, that national norm masks the rapidly rising rents seen in many regional markets during 2020-21.

And despite some local price reductions, Anglicare’s recent survey of 74,000 “lease ready” property listings identified only three (0.004%) affordable to a single person on the JobSeeker payment. More strikingly, for every household income type included in the survey, Anglicare found the availability of affordable lets even lower in early 2021 than a year earlier.

The broader and longer-term picture in the private rental market has been one of shrinking numbers of tenancies that low-income Australians can afford to rent. Specifically, we saw a 50% increase in the national deficit in private lets affordable to low-income renters (in the bottom 20% of incomes) in the decade to 2016.

A decade of negligible investment in social housing construction has only made this situation worse. The result has been a continued decline in availability as public and community housing has dwindled from 6% to only 4% of all housing since the 1990s. In fact, proportionate to population, social rental lettings have halved over this period.

A clear point of difference, but not a game-changer

Tuesday’s budget marked a continuation of the Morrison government’s near-exclusive housing focus on efforts to assist aspirational first-home buyers. Most significantly, this policy stance inspired the $2.1 billion HomeBuilder program as an economic recovery measure during 2020-21.




Read more:
Why the focus of stimulus plans has to be construction that puts social housing first


The ALP has pointedly backed both HomeBuilder and the smaller measures to assist first-home buyers announced on Tuesday. But Albanese’s new announcement seemingly extends Labor’s housing pitch beyond the Coalition’s comfort zone.

Anthony Albanese pledges $10 billion to build social housing in budget reply speech.

So is this the “major initiative” hailed by some headline writers? A “fix for house prices” it certainly is not. If unwisely attempted purely through public spending, the funding required to get into that territory would need to be many times as great.

Opposition housing spokesperson Jason Clare more defensibly describes the ALP pitch as “a significant start” in tackling Australia’s “housing crisis”.

The current national stock of social and affordable rental housing totals just over 400,000. In recent years annual additions have amounted to only 2,000-3,000. That’s barely enough even to offset continuing sales and demolitions. In these terms, Albanese’s pledge to expand the supply by 6,000 a year would indeed be significant.

At the same time, as our previous research has shown, a net increase of 15,000 units a year is needed just to keep pace with “normal” population growth – that is, to halt the decline in social rental as a share of all housing. Even under a post-pandemic scenario where migration rules are tightened as far as imaginable, that figure would not be substantially smaller.

So, like the Victorian government’s recently launched social housing stimulus, the ALP’s proposed national program would mark a promising break with the recent past, and a platform for further measures. But it would be hard to describe it as a game-changer.




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Victoria’s $5.4bn Big Housing Build: it is big, but the social housing challenge is even bigger


While greatly expanded social housing provision would be an essential part of any credible package to seriously address Australia’s housing affordability challenge, a far wider program of action is needed. Most importantly, such a program must also tackle our grossly unbalanced housing tax settings, boost renters’ rights and diversify the available choice of housing.

What the country needs above all is a Commonwealth commitment to assembling the national housing strategy that is so long overdue.




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Australia’s housing system needs a big shake-up: here’s how we can crack this


The Conversation


Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Frydenberg promises housing breaks in ‘pandemic budget’


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraJosh Frydenberg says he will bring down a “pandemic budget” on Tuesday, warning that despite Australia’s strong recovery, there is “still a great deal of uncertainty out there”.

The Treasurer points to new strains of the coronavirus, the COVID crisis raging in India, and local lockdowns. “We can’t take for granted the strong economic recovery we’ve seen. We’ve got to lock in those gains,” he said on Friday, speaking to The Conversation.

Touted as big spending, the budget will contain, besides a large reform package for aged care, significant outlays on mental health.

In measures on housing, it will increase from $30,000 to $50,000 the maximum amount of voluntary contributions aspiring home buyers can take from the First Home Super Saver Scheme.

This scheme allows people to make voluntary contributions to superannuation to save for their first home.

At present these contributions are capped at $15,000 a year and $30,000 in total.

With the rise in house prices, the current cap on the amount that can be released is a diminishing proportion of the deposit needed.

There will also be another 10,000 places added to the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, which can only be used for new housing. This means-tested measure allows first home buyers to build a new home or buy a newly-built one with a deposit of as little as 5%.

The budget will have an “improved bottom line, particularly in 2021”, compared with the earlier forecasts, Frydenberg confirmed.

This will be thanks in large part to a stronger-than-expected labour market as well as high iron ore prices.

The aim of pushing unemployment down below 5% will be a central feature of the budget.

“There’s a historic opportunity to drive the unemployment rate back to where it was pre pandemic and even lower,” Frydenberg said.

“And that’s why in this budget, you’ll see significant investments in energy, infrastructure, skills, the digital economy and lower taxes. Strengthening our economy will lead to a stronger budget position.”

Frydenberg said the dire predictions about what would happen with the end of JobKeeper in late March had not been fulfilled. In fact fewer people had been on income support after JobKeeper ended.

“And what you’ll see is that the budget improves as a result of the labour market strength, even more so than it does as a result of the higher iron ore price, because you get lower welfare payments and you get more tax revenue coming in from people at work.”

The budget will push out the assumptions about when Australia will reopen its international border. Last October’s budget assumed the border closure easing by the latter part of this year.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

At least 2.6 million people face poverty when COVID payments end and rental stress soars


Shutterstock

Simone Casey, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Swinburne University of TechnologyMany Australians whose jobs were decimated by the COVID business shutdowns will soon be waking up to new income shocks and the prospect of rental stress. This is because people whose employers can’t afford to keep them on will suddenly lose more than A$300 per week when the JobKeeper scheme ends on March 28. Worryingly, this income shock will happen just days before the payment to people on the JobSeeker benefit is effectively cut by $100 per fortnight.

At that point, all income support recipients – more than 2.6 million people – will be below the poverty line and many will face extreme rental stress.




Read more:
$1 billion per year (or less) could halve rental housing stress


This income shock has been anticipated for some time, but what does it means for rates of rental stress, particularly in Victoria? Despite promising signs of recovery, Victorian jobs lost in the COVID-induced recession, such as in the hard-hit business tourism and live music industries, have not bounced back at the same rate as others.

What will happen to rental affordability?

To illustrate this point we have modelled housing affordability for single people who were on either the full-time or part-time JobKeeper rate. In this scenario, they could also get JobSeeker payments at a part-rate because of the temporary increase in the income-free threshold to $300. This made them eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance too.

The chart below shows the impacts on income and rental affordability when JobKeeper and Coronavirus Supplement payments end. Their incomes and the amount of rent they can afford are roughly halved.

Impacts of the loss of JobKeeper and Coronavirus Supplement on income and affordable rent.
Author provided

Full-time and part-time single workers were able to afford weekly rent of $265 and $245 respectively before the withdrawal of JobKeeper. Afterwards, affordable rent goes down to $115 per week. That’s about $110 less than the $450 median rent ($225 per person) for a two-bedroom share house in Melbourne.

Based on our earlier calculations, this leaves these renters with only $17.57 per day to meet basic costs. They have a lavish $3.57 per day more than they did before the pandemic to pay for food, utilities and job-seeking costs such as mobile phone plans and travel cards (A$4.40 a day in Melbourne).




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What is different now than for pre-COVID unemployment was that business shutdowns thrust people who had reliable earnings – and accompanying high rents and mortgages in metropolitan areas – onto JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments.

The chart below shows the change in rental affordability for a number of household types before the pandemic and during the Coronavirus Supplement stages (i.e. payments of $550, then $250, then $150).

Affordable rents by household types with supplement and without.

For example, when their income was highest during the $550 stage, two singles sharing could afford rent of $430 per week. Once the supplement ends and is replaced by the $25-a-week increase in JobSeeker payment, affordable rent declines to only $230 per week or $115 each.

Rental affordability for single-parent households is notable here because the COVID Supplement was payable to one person only. Once the supplement is withdrawn, they will again be disadvantaged relative to other households because they will not be receiving the increase in the JobSeeker payment.




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What sort of job losses can we expect?

It is hard to predict exactly how many people will lose their jobs when JobKeeper ends. What we do know is the economic recovery in Victoria has lagged behind the other states. We also know that at the end of December 2020 1.55 million people were on JobKeeper and a large proportion of them (626,000) were in Victoria.

Economist Jeff Borland conservatively estimates national job losses could range between 125,000 and 250,000. It is reasonable to expect as many as half of these could be in Victoria.

Our analysis also shows there are worrying signs that the economic recovery celebrated in the January labour force data was not sustained in February. The latest data provided to a Senate inquiry into COVID-19 show JobSeeker recipients increased by 7,267 between January and February. The increase in Victoria could be attributed to the temporary Christmas retail boom, but in states like New South Wales and Queensland claims decreased slightly.

While fewer people will lose their jobs in other states than in Victoria when JobKeeper is withdrawn, they are not immune to this income shock. We created the chart below to show the overall scale of the coming problem of rental stress when the fortnightly $150 Coronavirus Supplement disappears and is replaced by the $50 JobSeeker increase.

Households and people on income support falling under poverty line as COVID supplement reduces (based on DSS data February 2021)

Once the supplement reduced to $250 per fortnight, singles and single parents with two children were below the poverty line. When it was reduced to $150, the number of household types in poverty increased again. From April 1, all income support recipients – covering more than 2.6 million people including children – will be waking up to poverty and the prospect of extreme rental stress.

What can be done to avoid this?

So how can governments prevent people from falling off the rental cliff? It is unlikely to be achieved by introducing cut-price flights to Far North Queensland.

A new range of strategies will be needed. These include options advocated by ACOSS and others to increase the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50%, increase the JobSeeker base rate above the poverty line and introduce rental stress grants targeted at individuals who need help.

Over the longer term, there is also a need to adopt strategic approaches to increase the supply of affordable rental housing such as those recommended by researchers at the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).The Conversation

Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Adjunct associate, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Build-to-rent surge will change apartment living for Australians, but for better or worse?


Megan Nethercote, RMIT University

Australia’s emerging build-to-rent sector is growing — “booming” by some accounts with a 70% jump in value in the past year. Under this model, institutional investors develop purpose-built rental apartments to retain and operate under single ownership. In Australia, it will change how apartments are designed and developed, how we are housed and how our tenancies are managed.

With 40 projects under way, an estimated 15,000 units worth more than A$10 billion are in the pipeline. Site availability has made Melbourne popular, with over 50% of the national market. Investors are active in Sydney, Perth and Queensland too.




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Build to rent could shake up real estate but won’t take off without major tax changes


Sought-after neighbourhoods are earmarked for large developments. Many have 300 or more units, most at market-rate rents.

Build-to-rent is new to our shores, but hardly uncharted territory abroad. In the UK, the sector expanded exponentially from 2013 with government support. It now accounts for one in five new homes built in England and one in four in London.

In the US, the built-to-rent sector is relatively mature. It makes up almost two-thirds of the rental stock in many of the largest cities. Heavyweight corporate landlords operate as many as 400,000 units each.

In Australia, we need more data and more informed public debate to guide tax, design, planning and tenancy reforms to secure the best possible urban and social outcomes from the build-to-rent expansion.

The build-to-rent promise

Build-to-rent presents an enticing vision. For households, it promises several things:

  • flexible long-term tenancies

  • client-centric onsite management

  • hotel-style amenities and services

  • allowances for pets and personalisation, such as painting and decorating.

couple painting an apartment
One of the appeals of built-to-rent apartments is they offer tenants more options to personalise their homes.
Shutterstock

For cities, the model promises high-amenity, well-located, purpose-built rental apartments that cater to diverse and changing housing needs.

Proponents hail build-to-rent as a win-win. It’s seen as a salve for various housing woes, including concerns about housing supply, affordability, the private rental sector (including insecure tenancies and inexpert property and tenancy management) and apartment quality.




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Since the COVID-19 downturn, the model has been hailed as an economic lifeline too: good for the construction sector, good for jobs.

Rise of a new asset class

For build-to-rent investors, the rental revenue returns appear relatively modest. Under current market conditions, however, secure margins and “lower (but) for longer” investment prospects appeal.

Advocates continue to push for tax reforms. They point to a growing “weight of capital” awaiting more enticing returns. But many international build-to-rent behemoths, superannuation/pension funds, private equity firms and real estate investment trusts are entering our private rental sector regardless.

Institutional investors’ entry into our rental sector contributes to a broader paradigm shift in urban housing systems dubbed the financialisation of (rental) housing.




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Explainer: the financialisation of housing and what can be done about it


States have endorsed build-to-rent, improving its viability with land tax concessions, exemption from foreign investor surcharges, privileged planning pathways and pilot projects (e.g. in Queensland). The federal government’s position has been more ambiguous.

Crucially, the rise of build-to-rent sets in motion two important structural shifts

  1. institutionalising the private rental sector

  2. diversifying residential development models.

Historically, small-portfolio “mum and dad” landlords have owned and managed our rental stock. They are motivated by many of the same benefits (such as tax concessions and capital gains) and exposed to the same risks as owner-occupiers.

So we’ve had a high degree of integration between the private rental and owner-occupier sectors: few dwellings were purpose-built for renting and most homes were readily interchangeable between sectors.

Build to rent disrupts this integration. It replaces the fragmented ownership of apartment buildings under strata title laws with a single institutional owner.

Build to rent also diverges from familiar speculative build-to-sell development geared towards short-term profits. Its longer-term investment horizons give developers a new incentive to minimise a building’s running costs and to create apartments that appeal to and retain tenants.




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So will it deliver?

Will build to rent provide high-quality, high-amenity, professionally managed rental homes? And at what scale, for how long, and at what costs to whom?

In the longer term, will this model disrupt the socio-political twinning of home ownership and home?




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Could build to rent be a catalyst for more progressive tenancy reforms, leading towards tenure neutrality/equality where ownership isn’t seen as automatically superior to renting?

These questions matter. One in three Australian households now rent their housing. Some argue we’re headed for a “post-ownership” society in which most people rent their homes.

Private rental was once a route to ownership. Now it’s a destination. Ownership has been delayed, become unattainable or been “traded off” for flexibility and being able to live in desirable locations.

Tenants are also more diverse. There are more lower-income and higher-income earners and more families than ever before.

Renters endure short leases on often poorly maintained properties owned by a cottage industry of “mum and dad” landlords. Social housing options are few and far between in a sector that has been marginalised and residualised. More renters, uncapped rents, weak tenant protections and stagnating wages make for a toxic mix of housing stress and financial risk.




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‘Build to rent’ could be the missing piece of the affordable housing puzzle


Reasons to proceed with caution

We don’t have robust evidence to answer these questions, but limited evidence suggests caution is well advised.

In Australia, build-to-rent properties look set to attract rents of about 10-15% more than comparable non-BTR housing, just as they have in London. Without government subsidies, market-rate BTR will not provide more affordable housing.

Overseas, these rental premiums, alongside planning leniency (which reduced the affordable housing required of these developments), have been blamed for poor outcomes, such as residents being priced out of neighbourhoods they could once afford.

In Ireland, permissive planning concessions enable build-to-rent developers to circumvent design standards. This has raised concerns that build-to-rent may deliver smaller, less diverse and lower-amenity housing (less storage, for example) than standard build-to-sell development.

In New South Wales, BTR developments cannot be subdivided for 15 years (without clawback of land tax concessions). This ensures buildings remain in use as rental stock for that period. But what will happen after that?




Read more:
Why NSW is skewing its tax system toward build-to-rent apartments and away from mum and pop landlords


The Conversation


Megan Nethercote, ARC DECRA Fellow at the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Eliminating most homelessness is achievable. It starts with prevention and ‘housing first’


Angela Spinney, Swinburne University of Technology

The stereotype of a homeless person – those living in tents or sleeping in parks or doorways – is just the visible tip of the much larger crisis of homelessness in Australia.

For every one of about 8,000 “rough sleepers” there about 14 others staying in temporary accommodation or with others in severely crowded dwellings. That’s a total of more than 116,000 homeless Australians, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics census data.

About 60% are under the age of 35, though the number of homeless aged 55 and older has been steadily increasing. About a quarter are women and children fleeing domestic violence.



CC BY-SA

The causes of homelessness are complex. The sterotype is that it involves mental illness and substance addiction. But the more common denominators are poverty, unemployment and a lack of affordable adequate housing.

Whatever the cause, research by myself and colleagues for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute proposes a path forward to reduce, and even eliminate, homelessness in Australia.

To do so requires moving away from treating the problem in an uncoordinated manner at the point of crisis and investing in an integrated system that prioritises prevention, fast rehousing and an adequate supply of affordable long-term housing.




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A historical legacy

Australia’s existing approach to dealing with homelessness is the legacy of a response originating in the 19th century, long before the advent of the modern welfare state, relying on charitable institutions to pick up the pieces of an economic system failing to care for the most vulnerable.

This has resulted in a somewhat chaotic system of small-scale and often disconnected services that are funded to only put a band-aid on the problem. It is mainly oriented towards crisis responses, with limited resources devoted to responding to homelessness once it has occurred, often only providing temporary relief from homelessness.

Federal, state and territory governments provide about A$250 million a year in funding to the 1,500 not-for-profit “specialist homelessness services” – organisations such as Launch Housing and Vincent Care – to provide support services and short-term accommodation in refuges, hostels, motels and caravan parks.

But this is insufficient to achieve the aim of even providing temporary accommodation to all those in need. Homeless services turn away almost 60% of those who ask for help. People instead have to rely on the kindness of family and friends, or sleep in their cars or on the street, while they wait to receive assistance. There is no statutory duty to provide assistance to homeless people in Australia.

The status quo is an expensive and unsatisfactory approach. We can do much better.




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Housing comes first

An emerging trend internationally is to reorient homelessness service systems away from a largely crisis response and towards prevention and long-term solutions.

The key is a “Housing First” approach, investing resources into first getting people into long-term accommodation, and then providing support to address the reasons they found themselves homeless in the first place.

Once housing is secured, relevant support workers can then support clients with particular needs, from preparing for employment, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, negotiating the legal system arising from domestic and family violence, and psychiatric or psychological counselling.

Evidence to the superiority of the “Housing First” approach comes from Norway. Over the past 12 years the number of homeless Norwegians has fallen by more than 35%. This compares with Australia’s approach, which in the past 20 years has managed to only marginally reduce the number of rough sleepers while other categories of homelessness have continued to rise.

We need an integrated strategy

A clear deficiency in Australia’s approach to homelessness has been the lack of any integrated national strategy and leadership. This means funding arrangements in states and territories are piecemeal and inadequate.

The first step in moving to a “Housing First” approach is coordinated federal and state funding for an adequate supply of affordable and social housing.


Chart showing number of social housing dwellings completed each year in Australia from 1969-2018

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Author provided

As we outline in our new report Ending homelessness in Australia: A redesigned homelessness service system, an integrated national strategy would also include an enhanced role for universal welfare services such as primary health services, schools and colleges to assist people at risk of homelessness.

They would have a duty to prevent homelessness when possible, assisting clients to maintain their existing housing or to access new housing. Where this is not possible, they would refer clients to specialist housing services for assistance finding crisis accommodation, and then long-term housing.

In this system, providing crisis accommodation would be the solution of last resort.

That affordable housing is the first step in solving homelessness may seem startlingly obvious. But, counterintuitively, that’s not the premise of how the current system works.




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We cannot stress enough how much an adequate planned supply of long-term affordable and social housing that is appropriate, secure and safe is vital to any successful attempt to end homelessness.The Conversation

Angela Spinney, Lecturer/Research Fellow in Housing and Urban Studies, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What did COVID do to rental markets? Rents fell as owners switched from Airbnb


Caitlin Buckle, University of Sydney; Nicole Gurran, University of Sydney; Patrick Harris, UNSW; Peter Phibbs, University of Sydney; Rashi Shrivastava, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, University of Sydney

COVID-related travel restrictions and the sudden drop in tourism provided an ideal natural experiment to examine the impact of shifts in the supply of short-term rental accommodation. Our research, released today, found even modest reductions in Airbnb listings, as owners switched to longer-term rentals, increased supply of these properties. The result was lower local rents.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused various upheavals, with obvious impacts on health and employment, as well as a big drop in international migration. The impacts of these changes on rental markets are extremely difficult to track, particularly the impacts on people on the margins of the rental housing system. We investigated these impacts by analysing online listings on common online platforms for share/low-rent housing and short-stay accommodation.




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Listings data show images, prices and descriptions of rental housing. These data provide an insight into this largely hidden sector of the housing market.

Of particular concern are people who:

What happened to these rentals?

Online platforms have transformed the ways in which people search for and advertise housing, so offer unique insights into the market.

We looked at listings of share housing and lower-cost rentals on Flatmates.com.au, Gumtree.com.au and Realestate.com.au between April and May 2020. We also looked at short-stay rentals on Airbnb.

Our primary focus was on Sydney, where Australia’s rental affordability pressures are most extreme.

We found demand for, and supply of, risky rental accommodation in Sydney continued during the pandemic.

In snapshots taken during lockdown restrictions in Sydney in April and May 2020, there were:

  • 402 advertisements for rooms or granny flats on Gumtree.com.au in May

  • 4,731 share accommodation listings on Flatmates.com.au in April

  • 2,923 people seeking accommodation via Flatmates.com.au in April.

Screenshot from Flatmates website
Demand for and supply of shared accommodation on online platforms like Flatmates continued during the pandemic.
Flatmates



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COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


Which renters are most at risk?

Of additional concern are older people in risky rentals who are more at risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. More than 6,400 renters over the age of 60 lived in share (“group”) households in Sydney at the time of the 2016 census. It was estimated over 4,600 were homeless.

People working in public-facing roles such as healthcare workers, and in food and accommodation services are also at risk of virus transmission. Many of them live in unsuitable rental housing due to the low-paid and transient nature of their work.

According to the 2016 census, over 8,400 healthcare and social assistance workers were living in rented group households in Sydney. Over 1,800 were estimated to be homeless. One Flatmates.com listing clearly expressed the difficulties healthcare workers’ face when seeking a share rental during the pandemic:

For those who think I might have COVID just because I’m a nurse, I can assure you that I don’t have COVID!!! 😛 (Flatmates “person” listing, April 2020)

The difficulties lower-income renters face in Australia’s major cities reflect a chronic undersupply of social and affordable housing. Pre-pandemic studies suggested the rise of short-term accommodation platforms such as Airbnb added to these pressures by draining properties from the permanent rental supply.




Read more:
As demand for crisis housing soars, surely we can tap into COVID-19 vacancies


What happened to short-term rental housing?

We looked at Airbnb listings in Sydney and Hobart between March and April 2020. Using Inside Airbnb data, we found the number of whole homes listed on Airbnb for more than 60 days a year decreased by 22% in Hobart and 14% in Sydney in that time.

Airbnb home page for Sydney
There were significant falls in home listings on Airbnb in Sydney and Hobart after the pandemic hit.
Airbnb

Vacancy rates, rental bonds data and Flatmates.com.au listings suggest these decreases occurred because Airbnb owners converted their properties into permanent rentals.

This translated to better outcomes for local renters. Even modest reductions in Airbnb listings were associated with increased permanent rental supply and lower local rents.

Median rents decreased in the June quarter in nine selected Sydney local government areas (LGAs) and Hobart’s four main LGAs. Rents fell by 2-9% in both cities.

Hobart was a particularly interesting case study because of its large penetration of Airbnb. The Airbnb market in Hobart City LGA is about 11% of the total private rental market. It experienced a much smaller drop in rental demand than Sydney because of its smaller number of temporary overseas migrants.

The drop in rents was directly proportional to the size of the Airbnb market in each LGA. Hobart City with an Airbnb density of 11% had a decrease in median rents of 9%. Glenorchy with an Airbnb density of 1% had only a 2% decrease in median rents.




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Ever wondered how many Airbnbs Australia has and where they all are? We have the answers


How to improve life for renters on the margins

Our study contributes to a growing body of evidence on ways to improve the housing circumstances of lower-income renters and people at risk of homelessness.

Government action, such as increased JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments during the pandemic, has helped people to continue to pay rent and avoid resorting to precarious rental situations. However, even with these increases low-income renters can struggle to pay rent in unaffordable markets.

Obviously, increasing the supply of social and affordable housing would reduce dependence on the precarious and marginal rental market.

Similarly, a permanent increase in income-support payments such as JobSeeker and/or Commonwealth Rent Assistance would enable more households to get adequate housing without extreme financial stress.




Read more:
$1 billion per year (or less) could halve rental housing stress


Higher regulation of the private rental sector would increase security for tenants and improve accommodation standards. We could look to New Zealand’s “healthy homes” framework for inspiration.

Finally, to preserve permanent housing supply in high-demand markets, states should impose controls on short-term Airbnb-style rentals.

These steps are critical to provide safe and secure accommodation for those on the margins of housing markets as part of Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.The Conversation

Caitlin Buckle, Research Associate in Housing Studies, University of Sydney; Nicole Gurran, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Sydney; Patrick Harris, Senior Research Fellow, (Acting) Deputy Director, CHETRE, UNSW; Peter Phibbs, Director, Henry Halloran Trust, University of Sydney; Rashi Shrivastava, Research Assistant, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, Associate Professor, Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What matters is the home: review finds most retirees well off, some very badly off



zstock/Shutterstock

Helen Hodgson, Curtin University

The government’s Retirement Incomes Review paints an encouraging picture of the finances of retired Australians.

Most are at least as well off in retirement as they were while working, and most are more financially satisfied and less financially-stressed than Australians of working age.

But not all. The huge exception is retirees who do not own their own homes.

Whereas very few retired home owners are in poverty, most retired renters are.


Income poverty rates of retirees

Note: Data relates to 2017-18 financial year. Elevated poverty rate defined as 5 percentage points above retiree average.Retirees are where household reference person is aged 65 and over. There is overlap between some categories, for example, early retired and renter categories. Early retired means aged 55-64 and not in the labour force. Housing costs includes the value of both principal and interest components of mortgage repayments.
Source: Analysis of ABS Survey of Income and Housing Confidentialised Unit Record File, 2017-18

So bad is the divide, the review found that even a 40% increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance (the payment for pensioners) would reduce financial stress among renters by only 1%.

This is because rent assistance is low, covering only about 13% of the cost of renting.

Retirees who own their own homes don’t have to pay rent (and can still get the pension should their wealth be tied up in their home), and have a source of wealth that usually eclipses both their own superannuation and the wealth of renters.


Equivalised household wealth by asset type for retirees

Note: Retirees are defined as households where the reference person is aged 65 or older and is no longer in the labour force. Household wealth has been equivalised using the OECD equivalence scale in order to take account of differences in a household’s size and composition. Values in 2017-18 dollars.
ABS, Retirement Incomes Review

Most people do not regard their home as a retirement asset, a view compounded by rules that exempt it from taxes and the pension assets test.

They are also reluctant to borrow against the value of their home using facilities such as the Pension Loans Scheme, for the same reasons they are reluctant to touch any of the wealth they retire with.

Data provided to the review by a large super fund shows its members typically die with 90% of what they had at retirement.

Most retirees don’t use what they’ve got

Another study finds age pensioners die with about 90% of what they had on retirement.

Partly the reasons are psychological. The review says words such as “investments”, “savings” and “nest eggs” imply the assets aren’t for living on.

Before compulsory super, employer-sponsored schemes usually paid “defined” benefits that could be measured in terms of income per year.

In the new system, designed to break the connection between workers and specific employers, benefits were “accumulated” in funds that could most easily be measured by the amount in them.




Read more:
Why we should worry less about retirement – and leave super at 9.5%


It is difficult for most people to see how a lump sum converts into income stream, and even more difficult when it depends on the interaction with the pension.

Another reason retirees hang on to what they had on retirement might be a genuine (if misplaced) concern about the unexpected.

In fact, health and aged care costs are heavily subsidised. Most people’s spending on them doesn’t increase significantly throughout retirement, yet many people seem unaware of how little of their own funds they will need.

Partly this is because of the complexity of the aged care and health care systems and how poorly they are explained.

It’s created two systems

Providing help to retirees who actually need it (mainly renters, many of them single women) and getting people with assets in the form of superannuation, savings and housing to actually use them rather than pass them on in bequests are the two key challenges identified in the report.

They are problems that boosting the rate of compulsory super contributions (as pushed for by the funds and presently leglislated) won’t help with.

They are set to become worse.

Although home ownership rates remain high for people over the age of 65, a growing number of Australians are not entering the housing market.

Over 15 years, the number of Australians over 65 who do not own their home outright is expected to double.




Read more:
Fall in ageing Australians’ home-ownership rates looms as seismic shock for housing policy


As the amount in super funds grows (boosted by the legislated increase in compulsory contributions, should it take place), Australians with super are going to have even more relative to what they need and even less need to make use of it.

The report makes no recommendations, and doesn’t suggest that the solutions are easy.

Widening the pension asset test to include the home would leave many homeowners worse off and could generate distrust and destabilise the system.




Read more:
Retirement incomes review finds problems more super won’t solve


Getting more Australians into home ownership has proved difficult and could never be a solution for all Australians, in any case.

We already have in place rules that require retirees to draw down their super, but often they withdraw the minimum amount permitted and then reinvest much of it in another savings vehicle outside of super.

We’ve created a system where most have enough or more than enough to retire on and others get nothing like enough.The Conversation

Helen Hodgson, Professor, Curtin Law School and Curtin Business School, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Victoria’s $5.4bn Big Housing Build: it is big, but the social housing challenge is even bigger



Shutterstock

Katrina Raynor, University of Melbourne

The Victorian government has announced the big social housing investment for which housing advocates, industry groups, academics and social service providers have been clamouring for decades.

The A$5.4 billion “Big Housing Build” aims to create over 12,000 homes in four years. Of these, 9,300 will be social housing. The rest will be affordable or market-rate housing. The program will replace 1,100 old public housing units.




Read more:
Why the focus of stimulus plans has to be construction that puts social housing first


The headline programs include:

  • $532 million to build on public land, including six “fast start” sites, resulting in 500 social housing homes and 540 affordable and market homes

  • $948 million to spot-purchase homes, projects in progress or ready-to-build dwellings from the private sector, adding 1,600 social housing and 200 affordable homes

  • $1.38 billion for community housing projects to build up to 4,200 homes

  • $2.14 billion for “new opportunities” with private sector and community housing providers, producing up to 5,200 homes.

Chart showing numbers of homes to be built over four years
The Big Housing Build time frame.
Homes Victoria/Victorian government, CC BY

Up to $1.25 billion will go into regional Victoria, which is welcome.

In addition, $498 million was announced in May to refurbish and build public housing.

Just how big is the Big Housing Build?

A target of 9,300 new social housing units over four years is definitely “big” by recent Victorian standards. The state’s social housing stock grew by just 12,500 dwellings over the past 15 years – about 830 dwellings a year.

The only comparable investment in Australia in the past two decades was the Commonwealth’s $5.6 billion Social Housing Initiative in 2009. This post-GFC stimulus program built around 19,700 social housing dwellings and repaired 12,000.

Chart showing number of social housing dwellings completed each year in Australia from 1969-2018

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Author provided

Is it enough?

No. It will take a long time and continued commitments of a similar scale to overcome the massive shortages in Victoria and Australia.

Victoria has a history of spending less on social housing per person than the rest of Australia.

Chart showing net recurrent spending per head of population for states and territories

Productivity Commission, Author provided

University of Melbourne research estimated a 164,000 shortfall in social and affordable housing in Victoria in 2018. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute estimated an extra 166,000 social units would be needed by 2036.




Read more:
Australia needs to triple its social housing by 2036. This is the best way to do it


The Big Housing Build aims to increase social housing dwellings in Victoria from 80,500 to about 89,000 – about 3.5% of all housing. That’s still less than the Australian average of 4.2% and the OECD average of 6%.

Chart showing social housing stock as percentage of total housing in Victoria and OECD countries.

OECD (data from 2018 or more current available), Author provided

What the scheme gets right

This program leans heavily on the use of state and local land to reduce the cost of the new housing. My colleagues and I have previously pointed out the large swathes of “lazy” government land across Victoria that could be used for this.




Read more:
Put unused and ‘lazy’ land to work to ease the affordable housing crisis


Offering $1.38 billion in competitive capital grants for community housing providers is also substantially more cost-effective for government than models that rely on private finance and provide an operating subsidy to providers. It appears the entire amount will be spent on supporting construction, rather than on creating a seed fund that drip-feeds investment returns into the not-for-profit sector like the Social Housing Growth Fund does.

Victoria is also joining Canada and the state of California in spot-purchasing homes from the private sector in response to COVID-19. This will deliver social housing quickly. It will also support developers in a depressed market while capitalising on lower prices.

The focus on victim-survivors of domestic violence, Indigenous Australians and people living with mental health conditions is welcome too.




Read more:
Why more housing stimulus will be needed to sustain recovery


Remaining concerns

Privatisation of social housing

This announcement continues trends across Australia to shift social housing provision from a state responsibility (public housing) to a more partnership-based model led by community housing providers (community housing).

This approach can leverage substantial contributions from other sectors in the form of land, capital, skills and ideas, producing exemplary outcomes. An example is the Education First Youth Foyer partnership, which is changing how “at risk” young people access housing, education and other services.

However, complex arrangements between multiple partners, especially when using private finance, can be inefficient and costly. Such partnerships are often opportunistic rather than strategic, with priority given to commercial over social outcomes. Community housing residents have less tenancy rights than those in public housing and sometimes pay more of their income on rent.

An emphasis on mixed-tenure developments can lead to cherry-picking of “acceptable” tenants and destroy tightly knit communities. Previous public housing renewal programs based on private sector involvement left a legacy of poorly integrated communities and loss of public land for negligible gains in social housing. We cannot afford to make those mistakes again.

private garden area at Carlton housing estate redevelopment
Previous Victorian housing estate redevelopments have led to segregated areas of public and private housing.
Kate Shaw



Read more:
Social mix in housing? One size doesn’t fit all, as new projects show


Lack of a strategic plan

The program comes with a new government agency, Homes Victoria, and the promise of a ten-year policy and funding framework. This level of strategic leadership has been lacking in Victoria and will require bipartisan support. Strong partnerships with local councils will also be needed.

Good policy depends on many elements, including:

  • research
  • housing targets with geographical and population-group breakdowns
  • transparent decision-making
  • clearly identified funding streams and responsible agencies
  • shared definitions
  • monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
  • clear time frames
  • integration with other policy areas and levels of government.

These elements appear to still be a work in progress for the Big Housing Build. The risk is that this announcement will follow Australia’s pattern of “lumpy” funding and inconsistent policy on social and affordable housing.

Without long-term funding streams, providers find it hard to to scale up, make strategic decisions, invest in internal capacity and plan development pipelines. Without overarching strategy and monitoring, Victoria’s lacklustre history of social housing provision may continue.




Read more:
Ten lessons from cities that have risen to the affordable housing challenge


Reduced community engagement

Planning approvals for larger social housing developments will be streamlined. In many cases, the state will take over final decision-making from local government. This will reduce opportunities for community consultation and the state government will need to work hard to ensure high-quality design is integrated into developments.

Where to from here?

As COVID-19 has made clear, everyone needs a home and society benefits from caring for those in need. The speed with which governments moved to house rough sleepers, a seemingly intractable problem before COVID, shows homelessness and severe housing stress can be overcome.




Read more:
The need to house everyone has never been clearer. Here’s a 2-step strategy to get it done


The Big Housing Build is not perfect and will not solve Victoria’s huge housing challenges on its own. It must be the start of regular cycles of funding to sustain social housing in Victoria. It should also be tied to longitudinal evaluation of outputs and an aligned research agenda to shape best-practice outcomes.

And powers-that-be in Canberra, the list of partners in this program has a large federal-government-shaped gap. When are you going to come to the party?The Conversation

Katrina Raynor, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Hallmark Research Initiative for Affordable Housing, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Mould and damp health costs are about 3 times those of sugary drinks. We need a healthy housing agenda



Burdun Iliya/Shutterstock

Rebecca Bentley, University of Melbourne and Emma Baker

The World Health Organisation has always been interested in housing as one of the big “causes of the causes”, of the social determinants, of health. The WHO launched evidence-based guidelines for healthy housing policies in 2019.

Australia is behind the eight ball on healthy housing. Other governments, including in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand, acknowledge housing as an important contributor to the burden of disease. These countries have major policy initiatives focused on this agenda.

In Australia, however, we do housing and we do health, but they sit in different portfolios of government and aren’t together in the (policy) room often enough. Housing should be embedded in our National Preventive Health Strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how we approach health and protect our populations. It has amplified social and economic vulnerability. The pandemic has almost certainly brought housing and health together in our minds.

Housing – its ability to provide shelter, its quality, location, warmth – has proven to be a key factor in the pandemic’s “syndemic” nature. That is, as well as shaping exposure to the virus itself, housing contributes to the social patterning of chronic diseases that increase COVID-19 risks.

Graphic showing interactions of COVID-19 with social determinants of health and non-communicable diseases
Interactions of COVID-19, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the social determinants of health.
Bambra et al, The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities (2020), Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health



Read more:
Overcrowding and affordability stress: Melbourne’s COVID-19 hotspots are also housing crisis hotspots


Housing and health are intertwined

Housing affects health in many ways. At the broad scale, housing disadvantage, unaffordable housing and housing of poor quality have been the focus of much recent Australian research. More specific housing drivers of health, such as household mould, injury, overcrowding, noise, cold and damp, have received renewed global attention.

However, capturing the combined health effect of housing is difficult. It’s hard to measure and has many components, and everyone has slightly different housing (and health).

But epidemiologists can provide us with a useful way of estimating the “burden” of various risk factors for population health. Housing risk factors have rarely been examined in Australia, but our estimates flag that the increasing health burden of housing demands attention.

For example, we estimate the health cost (measured in disability-adjusted life years) due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to mouldy or damp housing is about three times the cost attributable to sugary drinks in Australia. Damp, cold and mouldy housing generates a substantial health burden and could be an easy target for public health prevention strategies. These housing conditions stand alongside many of the classic risk factors such as diet, smoking and obesity.

This estimate of health burden does not even factor in the important role housing plays in mental health. Housing affordability, security, suitability, location and condition are all associated with good mental health.

With rates of eviction likely to increase once moratoriums are lifted across the country, the housing-related mental health burden will almost certainly increase too.

We have previously estimated more than 2.5 million Australians are living in unhealthy housing — and that this number is rising.

The Australian Index of Unhealthy Housing – a composite measure of housing affordability, security, quality, location and accessibility – shows increases in unhealthy housing from 2000 to 2016.
Adapted from Baker et al (2019), An Australian geography of unhealthy housing



Read more:
COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


What housing actions will improve health?

Simple housing-focused interventions could reduce the sizeable health burden from housing-related problems. As the WHO advocates, this requires policy and research that have an eye on both health and housing.

In practical terms, a preventive health strategy would include:

  • minimum rental housing standards to protect occupants’ health, which would target structural factors related to damp and mould, ventilation, heating and cooling, injury hazards, maintenance and repair

  • good-quality public housing that is easy to access as a foundation for healthy lives

  • help with fixing problems, such as mould removal and servicing of heaters, for people in poor-quality housing

  • insulation to maintain indoor temperature and increase energy efficiency.

Sick woman sitting on couch with a blanket over her
Poorly insulated housing is a serious health issue in Australia.
fizkes/Shutterstock



Read more:
Chilly house? Mouldy rooms? Here’s how to improve low-income renters’ access to decent housing


COVID adds urgency to rethinking our approach

COVID has caused us to rapidly rethink public housing, nursing homes, share houses and small inner-city apartments. When choosing our current housing, few of us would have factored in the potential for isolation and loneliness, the need for separate working and study spaces, access to private green space, or the infection risk of shared lifts.

The experience of many Australians during the pandemic has almost certainly changed our view of the housing that we need, and what we consider to be healthy. It is time to harness this knowledge and learn from our COVID-19 experience.




Read more:
How might COVID-19 change what Australians want from their homes?


Many have lamented the missed opportunity to create economic stimulus in our nation’s COVID recovery plan by building more social housing. But social housing is only a small part of the story. Australia needs to embrace a future where good population health goes hand in hand with good-quality, affordable and secure housing – where health is at the forefront of housing policy and public preventive health strategies harness housing.

7 key questions for a healthy housing agenda

The time is right for Australia to put housing and health in the same room and develop a national healthy housing agenda. Our National Health and Medical Research Council-funded Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Housing aims to lead and shape this agenda. In doing so, we pose the following questions to our governments, research community and stakeholders:

  1. How can we respond in a nationally co-ordinated way to the emerging challenges that COVID-19 presents to healthy housing?

  2. Who should be included in the conversation and in developing the agenda – and what is the role of the Commonwealth Department of Health?

  3. Where does responsibility for providing healthy housing lie?

  4. What is the “minimum standard” of housing that we want to provide to all Australians?

  5. What are the healthy housing priorities? Warmth? Mould? Tenure security? Affordability?

  6. What groups in our society demand immediate attention? Children? Renters? People with disabilities?

  7. How will an Australian healthy housing agenda fit within a national housing agenda (when one exists)?




Read more:
Coronavirus lays bare 5 big housing system flaws to be fixed


The Conversation


Rebecca Bentley, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Principal Research Fellow in Social Epidemiology and Director of the Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Housing in Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne and Emma Baker, Professor of Housing Research and Deputy Director of the NHMRC Centre of Excellence for Healthy Housing

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


Hal Pawson, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, The University of Queensland

COVID-19 triggered multimillion-dollar commitments by state governments to tackle homelessness. Our research for the Australian Homelessness Monitor 2020, released today, reveals at least 33,000 rough sleepers and other homeless people have been booked into hotels and other temporary accommodation during the crisis.

Beyond this, several states have pledged funds and support to move beyond this short-term fix and ensure former rough sleepers find long-term housing.




Read more:
If we realised the true cost of homelessness, we’d fix it overnight


These are commendable actions in a long-neglected policy area, even if largely inspired by public health anxieties rather than concern for the welfare of people without a home.

Still, our research also shows the burst of activity over the past six months builds on several years of stepped-up state government action to tackle street homelessness across Australia.

What prompted governments to act?

Three factors seem to have contributed:

  1. around 2016, rising inner-city rough sleeping apparently crossed a threshold of political embarrassment

  2. people experiencing homelessness challenged official complacency with direct action, including protest camps in Sydney’s Martin Place and outside Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station during the 2017 Australian Open tennis tournament

  3. a new level of activism, often inspired by developments overseas, led to initiatives such as the Everybody’s Home campaign, the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Constellation Project and Adelaide Zero.




Read more:
Clearing homeless camps compounds the violation of human rights and entrenches the problem


In response, several state governments boosted efforts to reduce street homelessness. Measures included expanded outreach services and offers of housing assistance, increased spending on rental subsidies and personal support for former rough sleepers, and leasing of private rental properties as temporary social housing.

Some states even set specific targets to reduce homelessness. New South Wales, for example, pledged to cut rough sleeping on Sydney’s streets by a quarter between 2017 and 2020. Statewide, the aim is to halve street homelessness between 2019 and 2025.

Such targets are a welcome sign of ambition. They could even spur other states and territories to make similar commitments.

Rough sleepers are just the visibly homeless

As our report explains, though, these aspirations raise tricky issues of definition and measurement. And they focus narrowly on rough sleeping. Though highly visible, it’s just one of the forms of homelessness.

This approach risks airbrushing the wider, and much larger, homelessness problem. Of the 116,000 homeless people counted by the 2016 Census some 8,000 were rough sleepers. Homelessness also includes experiences such as as couch surfing and living in badly overcrowded dwellings and short-term, unsafe accommodation like rooming houses.




Read more:
Informal and illegal housing on the rise as our cities fail to offer affordable places to live


Crucially, homelessness cannot be overcome purely through better management and co-ordination of existing services. Nor can it be seriously tackled by state/territory governments without federal support.

New wave of homelessness is looming

The most immediate concern now is an imminent surge in homelessness. This is likely in coming months as a result of JobKeeper payments and JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplements being scaled back and bans on evictions lifted.

These protections staved off a new, recession-induced, homelessness crisis through the winter months. But, since mid-year, rough sleeper numbers have been on the rise once again in cities including Adelaide and Sydney. This is almost certainly a problem deferred, rather than a problem avoided.

We know, for example, that many tenants who lost incomes and sought reduced rent have only been granted deferrals. They are building up big arrears.




Read more:
Cutting JobSeeker payments will cause crippling rental stress in our cities


Rough sleeper packing up in Melbourne laneway
Sleeping rough is on the rise again in Australian cities.
Indigo Skies Photography/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

For their part, many landlords have lost rental income – by negotiation or otherwise. They represent about one-third of the more than 400,000 mortgage accounts on which banks have agreed to defer payments.

The extent of any surge in homelessness will depend on the public health situation, the timing and vitality of post-pandemic economic recovery, and on how quickly eviction bans and income-support measures are withdrawn. However, if unemployment hits 10% as predicted, homelessness could rise by 21% according to one projection for NSW.

For state governments, housing the mid-2020 rough-sleeper cohort has been enough of a challenge on its own. Even with stepped-up assistance programs, the states lack the capacity to cope with a surge of households newly evicted from private rental housing.

The main problem is a lack of homes at rents that low-income tenants can afford. A large part of the reason is decades of official inaction that effectively halved Australia’s supply of social housing since the 1990s. On top of that, the shortfall of private rental properties affordable for low-income tenants grew by 54% in the decade to 2016, as detailed in our report.

What needs to be done?

Lessons from Australia’s success in tackling street homelessness during the pandemic must be integrated with ongoing services. We have to reduce reliance on band-aid interventions that are costly and, at best, only lessen the harm. Homelessness is bad for health and for our society at all times, not just during pandemics.

Governments at all levels must recognise that the growing homelessness problem of the past two decades calls for a comprehensive housing policy rethink.




Read more:
Australia’s housing system needs a big shake-up: here’s how we can crack this


Yes, governments have partnered with community organisations to get people off the streets during the pandemic, which is something to celebrate. But these successes do not resolve the underlying structural problems.

The federal government has a critical role to play in both policy and funding. It must be far more active in owning and tackling the issue. Essential first steps are to permanently boost JobSeeker payments and the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. And the government should properly index these payments, as it does the Aged Pension.

Beyond this, the Commonwealth must use its greater budget capacity –
more than the combined resources of the states and territories – to invest in building new social housing at scale. For almost the entire period since 1996 we’ve been building only 2,000-3,000 social housing units per year. Just to keep pace with a growing population, that needs to be 15,000 a year. It’s essential not just as a stimulus for post-pandemic recovery as proposed, but as a routine national program long into the future.

Such action should be part of a comprehensive national housing strategy to design and phase-in the wide-ranging reforms of taxes and regulations needed to rebalance Australia’s housing system and tackle homelessness at its source.


The authors are very grateful to Peter Mares for his input into this article.The Conversation

Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, Associate Professor, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.