Recently the issue of homelessness in Australia was the subject of a few articles in the media. It was reported that the Government plans to spend $5 million researching (again) the causes of homelessness. The Hardest Way Home made some observations about that with which I agree. Homeless people need housing and people suffering from mental illness require mental health care.
Such studies have been done over and over. In order to reduce vulnerability to homelessness there needs to be a real change in the way we value early intervention, education, health care and mental health care, not to mention actually maintaining a system of public housing.
What is additionally disappointing about the Government’s lack of initiative on the housing crisis is the way the recent floods have been used as an excuse to reduce funding to the National Rental Affordable Scheme and Building Better Regional Cities programs. Both Homelessness Australia’s ‘Inform‘ and the National Homelessness Information Clearinghouse report on these cuts. (These are both brilliant resources for Homelessness activists seeking research.)
The Greens have condemned the cuts. I notice they also used the phrase “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. There are probably plenty of other phrases that could be used to describe this heartless short-sightedness, but we won’t go into that.
The NRAS was a $1 billion incentives program designed to stimulate the construction of up to 50,000 homes and apartments providing affordable private rental properties. The Scheme will now be capped by the Government at 35,000 incentive packages by 2013-14.
The National Affordable Housing Summit also responded to news of the cuts with disappointment:
The chair of the Summit group, Prof Julian Disney, said today: “The Summit group’s members are well aware of the gravity of the flood recovery challenge. But they strongly oppose the Government’s extremely short-sighted decision in relation to NRAS.”
“Unaffordable housing is already a massive national problem and will become worse because of the floods. NRAS is an essential and highly cost-effective response to that problem and has been gathering momentum very successfully. There is a need to improve the government’s administration of the scheme but no justification whatsoever for today’s decision.
“The Summit group calls on the Government to commit that the promised support for NRAS will be restored from no later than the middle of next year.”
Today’s release of the Productivity Commission’s 2011 Report on Government Services highlights the pressing need to expand the provision of affordable rental housing for low income households in NSW.
The Report shows that 45.7% of NSW low income households are in rental stress, meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income in rent. The NSW rate of rental stress is the highest of any state or territory.
Given this, NCOSS is dismayed at yesterday’s Commonwealth Government decision to cut the planned future growth of affordable rental housing under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).
At a time when housing in Australia is among the most expensive in the world, we really need a co-ordinated approach from those responsible for governing the country. For years now successive governments, Local, State and Federal have been cutting funding and reducing services. We really can’t continue to pretend that governing for the economy is a good way to take care of community needs. We are human beings, living in families and communities, not economic labour units. We don’t need to be guilt tripped by MSM spokesdweebs or their jackbooted apologists every time we ask for some concrete consideration for basic necessities like housing. Calling people names like “socialist” or “whinger” when they ask for the government to do its job isn’t going to make this problem go away.
And we can’t consider ourselves a civilised society while ever we ignore the human beings sleeping rough on the streets. This *must* be dealt with.