Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Public housing on a precipice? And privatising public housing!

THE booming housing market was squeezing thousands of low-income earners out of private rental accommodation into a public housing system on the verge of collapse, Australia's peak social body has warned.

According to the Australian Council of Social Service, homelessness will reach chronic levels within 10 years unless governments tackle long public housing waiting lists, declining public housing stock and increasingly tough criteria that means only the most desperately in need are accommodated.

ACOSS says federal and state funding for public housing has been cut by 25 per cent over the past 10 years, stock has fallen from 6.2 per cent to 4.7 per cent of all housing, and the national waiting list has become "so absurd" it will take 70 years to clear.

In Tasmania, where low property prices have traditionally reduced the pressure on public housing, the real estate boom has increased waiting lists by 74 per cent since 2001 and lifted the number of urgent cases by 150 per cent.

In a report for a proposed national housing summit, the Queensland Community Housing Coalition cited figures showing a shortage of 150,000 low-cost homes across Australia, while up to 1 million people will soon be living in "housing stress", where more than a third of their weekly income is spent on rent. "

Australia is not delivering on public housing," ACOSS president Andrew McCallum said. "If we carry on the way we are, there will be no public housing in Australia in the next five to 10 years. It's an extremely critical situation."

The federal Government has proposed a solution to the looming crisis, under which the states will have to encourage private sector investment [?] in low-cost housing or lose 5 per cent of their federal housing funds under the $4.75 billion Commonwealth State Housing Agreement.

[Err... more like threats to the States, if they don't do it, (what else can people expect from a war criminal?) And and invitation for private sector investment more like it, you dog Howard. Just plain ruling class privatisation and propaganda of the public housing.]

PM man of steel? Or killer and a thief?

Is JOHN Howard a killer and a thief or a man of steel after he dropped bombs on innocent civilians in order to fix the problem in Iraq for trade agreements with the US? Thousands of children are now dieing of disease.

The agreement is under negotiation.

Data collected by ACOSS and The Australian reveals more than 200,000 Australians are waiting for public housing some for up to five years while the number of new people housed each year has fallen by 29 per cent in the past decade to just 38,736 in 2000-01.

[Er..because of minimal investment by the federal government, who are too interested in spending the social services dollars on war.]

South Australia has suffered the biggest drop, with a 53 per cent cut in the number of new families accommodated in 2000-01 (3822) compared with 8138 in 1993-94. Western Australia has housed 39 per cent less people, Queensland 31 per cent, and Victoria almost 30 per cent fewer families. In Western Australia, waiting lists are up to five years in popular suburbs.

The NSW Government [allegedly] prides itself on falling [10 year] waiting lists and maintaining the number of new families housed each year. However, 97 per cent of new tenants are from the lowest income group, or those people with special needs.

Public housing was intended as low-cost accommodation for blue-collar families unable to afford the private rental market, but had since become an avenue for governments to house only the most poverty stricken or people most at risk, Mr McCallum said.

A Senate committee inquiry into poverty this month heard numerous submissions on Australia's "hidden" homeless those caught in a cycle of moving between friends, family and emergency accommodation while waiting for a home.

"We have to stop the slanging match between the state and the feds," Mr McCallum said.

"We need to look at the issues, provide encouragement for private investment [? privatisation, do we?] in social housing, raise the percentage of social housing across the country, and acknowledge the issue of homelessness we need longer-term plans."

[Then we know whose side he's on don't we folks, privatisation of public housing, corporations and big business.]

The state-by-state outlook


AN inner-city housing boom, escalating rental costs and reduced federal funds have been blamed for a blow-out in the number of people to almost 30,000 on the public housing waiting list. Housing Minister Robert Schwarten said the system was under great strain but insisted commonwealth funding levels were to blame. Recent figures show there are 29,683 on the waiting list, up from 24,353 in 2001. Most are forced to wait an average of 12.4 months for a home. The state has 55,000 properties, including 2795 for indigenous families. Queensland Shelter director Adrian Pisarski said the high demand for public housing meant only the most desperate people were given accommodation, which in turn placed a further strain on the system.


NSW continues to struggle to meet demand for public housing, despite a significant fall in the number of people on waiting lists in the past three years down 10 per cent since 2000, from 101,561 to 90,926 households.

The Housing Department conceded the fall was partly due to regular reviews of families' eligibility for accommodation. Of those still listed, most can expect to wait anywhere from six months to three years for a home. Shelter groups argue waiting lists are an imprecise measure of demand and that increasingly tough eligibility criteria are bumping many families off the list. Others are removed for failing to respond to requests for fresh information, despite many families having no permanent contact address.


THE public housing crisis is hurting most in Victoria's regional areas where waiting lists have more than doubled since the start of the decade. Morwell, in the southeast, recorded a 168 per cent increase in demand between June 2000 and December 2002, while in Portland, on the west coast, the number of people on the waiting list rose by 111 per cent. Other problem areas were Benalla, which recorded a 73 per cent increase, Wodonga, 69 per cent, and Horsham, 64 per cent. According to to the Auditor-General, applications statewide for public housing increased 11.6 per cent to 40,396 in the two years to June 30, 2002. However the latest figures from the state's Office of Housing indicate applications fell to 37,994 by December 2002.


AN unprecedented real estate boom is squeezing Tasmanians out of private property and on to public-housing waiting lists. State government figures show waiting lists for public housing almost doubled from June 1999 to June 2002 and by March this year had climbed another 45 per cent to 2989. Waiting times have also doubled from 12 to 23 weeks. The number of urgent applications due to homelessness, domestic violence or other trauma jumped by more than 150 per cent during the same period. Housing Tasmania has about 24,000 tenants in its 12,021 homes (down from 13,405 homes in 1999-2000). Unemployed people, single mothers and people with disabilities are finding it particularly tough in the private rental market, where investors are seeking top returns.

Western Australia

THE public housing crisis here is hitting homeless indigenous people in Perth hardest. The wait for public housing is up to five years in some suburbs, and complaints of discrimination lodged against public housing agency Homeswest have reached unprecedented levels, according to the state's Equal Opportunity Commission. Independent housing agency Shelter reported last September that 85 per cent of people contacting accommodation support agencies in Perth needed crisis housing within 24 hours, a rise from 68 per cent in March 2002. Most were staying with relatives or friends. Shelter says Aborigines account for 45 per cent of the state's homeless, yet make up only 3.1 per cent of the population.

South Australia

SOUTH Australia was the first state to establish a public housing authority, building 25,000 houses at its peak between 1937 and 1965. As a result, while about 5 per cent of households Australia-wide are in public housing, in South Australia it is 8.5 per cent. Under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement, the states receive funding on a per-capita basis, which means South Australia was being hit with a "triple whammy", according to Ian Yates, executive director of the Council on the Ageing. "We're not getting the money to spend on the public housing we already have and because we have got a lot of people staying in it, we're not getting the rental allowance funds from the commonwealth for people on low-incomes in private rental," Mr Yates said.

By ACOSS 14 May 03


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