A home for all. While a simple call, it’s something that we have struggled to deliver to all Canberrans.
Despite our relative wealth and prosperity, more people in Canberra are finding it harder to find a safe and affordable place to live. With some of the highest rents and house prices in Australia, it’s always been tough, but the economic disaster triggered by COVID-19 means even more people are facing housing stress.
More investment in social and affordable housing is something many in the community have been calling for over many years. We know that with small numbers of people sleeping rough this is an issue we can solve. Housing was a central theme of the community sector’s 2016 election campaign. While the last few years have seen some good housing programs established, we have continued to see housing affordability worsen rather than get better.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the broader impacts of homelessness on public health. This crisis has demonstrated how dependent we all are in ensuring everyone has a safe home.
Right now, we are witnessing the terrible consequences of inadequate investment in social housing infrastructure. I know that I am not alone at being deeply distressed watching the evolving crisis in Melbourne as COVID-19 takes hold in old, over-crowded and poorly designed public housing complexes.
In some cases, this has triggered a more concentrated effort on this issue. We have watched other Australian jurisdictions commit to immediately increasing social and community housing stock. It is pleasing to see that here in the ACT we have seen new homelessness services open recently. These filled quickly and we can see that there is a need for more investment in this area.
This is exactly the time that we need to get serious about ending homelessness and providing a safe home for everyone who wants one. This is the time to make a proper investment to get Canberra back to where it should be in relation to social and community housing stock – building stock at a rate that keeps pace with our growing population.
In addition to providing more social housing stock, we also need to invest in our community housing providers who are able to deliver community and affordable housing, and provide more resources and support our specialist homelessness services.
There will be those who say that we can’t afford this. They will say it is too expensive to build more housing – particularly given we are at the beginning of a recession. While there is no doubt that we need to make a serious financial investment, it will cost us even more if we don’t do this. There is clear evidence that homelessness is even more expensive. We know that people who are homeless have greater health issues, mental issues and are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, including as victims of violence.
I think it’s time to make a serious investment in social and community housing and make sure there is a home for all. What do you think?
Rebecca Vassarotti is an ACT Greens Candidate for Kurrajong in the upcoming Territory election and the candidate spokesperson on housing and homelessness.