3 July 2020

The ACT Greens want to end homelessness by 2025, but is it possible?

| Dominic Giannini
Join the conversation
Shane Rattenbury

ACT Greens’ leader Shane Rattenbury has pledged to end homelessness in the Territory by 2025. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Greens have pledged to spend $450 million over the next four years to end homelessness in the ACT under the party’s ‘Home for All’ package.

Under the proposal, $200 million will be spent on 600 new ‘climate-ready’ rental properties for people in need, while an additional $200 million will be spent on a further 400 properties for social housing.

An extra $21 million will be set aside for specialist homelessness services over the next four years – a 20 per cent increase – while MyHome in Curtin will receive $8.5 million to house 20 people with enduring mental illnesses.

There will also be $9 million to deliver new beds in Canberra’s homelessness services and specialist workers in existing homelessness services, $8 million for another 20 homes at Common Ground in Gungahlin and $300,000 to establish an Aboriginal-controlled Indigenous community housing organisation.

However, demographer and population expert at the Australian National University (ANU), Dr Liz Allen, says it will take a more concerted and systemic effort to eradicate homelessness in the ACT.

“Solving homelessness is an admirable but complicated endeavour; you could say homelessness is a stubborn social problem,” Dr Allen said.

“Many attempts, albeit piecemeal, have been made to address homelessness in Australia and, indeed, Canberra. Eliminating homelessness requires a suite of policy and practice, and it will take time and serious effort.

“Any attempt to redress homelessness must be earnest and approached with compassion with the long view in mind, and not used just used as a short-term election platform.”

The homelessness announcement was made at the ACT Greens’ 2020 election campaign launch where leader Shane Rattenbury unveiled the party’s platform which will focus on housing affordability, climate action and local jobs.

“It is time to meaningfully address our housing crisis,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“Canberra has the highest average incomes in the country, and yet growing inequality means that people are still living on our streets, couch-surfing, and struggling to pay rents.

“Ending homelessness in Canberra is long overdue – it has been allowed to continue in Canberra for far too long – even though our cold winters and hot summers.

“We understand the clear link between rough sleeping and homelessness and mental illness. Homelessness makes it nearly impossible to hold down a job. It is time to end these cycles.”

Dr Liz Allen

Dr Liz Allen says reform across a multitude of sectors is needed to address homelessness. Photo: ANU.

According to census data between 2006 and 2016, there have been no major decreases in the number of homeless people or the number of people sleeping rough across Australia.

Dr Allen says the key to solving the problem is multi-faceted and systemic reform across a variety of sectors.

“People become homeless for a variety of reasons, everything from low income, illness and disability, drug dependency, criminality, social exclusion, family breakdown and violence to name just a few,” she said.

“Affordable housing, including social housing and secure housing for low-income families, is just one part of solving homelessness. Eliminating homelessness requires a suite of policy and practice, and it’ll take time and serious effort.

“Building a robust health system, comprised of dedicated mental health and drug and alcohol programs is essential. A well-funded public education system can help target programs to provide a better safety net for kids experiencing difficulties at school or at home.”

A recent study from the ANU found that the number of Australians who could not pay their rent or mortgage on time during the pandemic has more than doubled to 15 per cent.

This is three times higher for young people aged between 18 to 24, around 44 per cent of whom were unable to pay their rent on time.

There was also a threefold increase in house stress for Australians aged 18 to 24, and Australians aged 35 to 44 between April and May, increasing to 27.5 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Peter Curtis1:11 pm 09 Oct 21

A magnificent goal but are the Greens magnificent enough to do so? Can they end inequality too? That is what is the heart of it.

So if we had the best system in the country, what’s stopping needy people moving to Canberra, or overseas, to take advantage of this? Is there a residency requirement?

Didn’t the Labor and Green alliance create the problem!
There was no homless people in Canberra pre Labor.
Canberra is no longer a place for the unskilled,hard working ocker.

Why don’t we do a Trump, stop investigating the problem and stop counting the victims; numbers are bound to improve.

Queanbeyanite5:09 pm 09 Jul 20

Depends how many spare beds there are in Shane’s place.

“The Greens. Ha ha ha. Complaining about a problem they caused. Doing nothing effective about it while in coalition for years with Barr.”

Not sure we can claim the Greens ‘caused the problem’ but they have certainly held the balance of power in Canberra for almost a decade (8 years) and sat by and watched the problem get worse and worse.

Finally being forced to actually do something about it, they announce their commitment to the issue as an election promise!

There’s nothing more inspiring than waiting 8 years to really show your commitment to an issue and then wrapping it up in an “if elected we will….”

We need to demand better.

OK then, could you start with that bloke outside Dickson Woolies?

I doubt very much whether he is homeless

A party that’s been in government and part of the problem for years now proposing another scheme to fix things, which will further push of the cost of living and housing costs. Yep – that’ll work. ‘The problem with Socialism is eventually you run out of other peoples money to spend’.

The Greens. Ha ha ha. Complaining about a problem they caused. Doing nothing effective about it while in coalition for years with Barr. Proposing an extravagant ineffective solution.

HiddenDragon9:05 pm 06 Jul 20

The phasing down of Jobkeeper, the reset(?) of Jobseeker and the end of mortgage and eviction “pauses” will put a sharp focus on homelessness across the nation, and – let’s hope – there may be a federal response of some sort.

Whatever happens on that front, State and Territory governments will face much higher rates of homelessness and housing stress, so even if it’s not in the form currently proposed by the ACT Greens, there will need to be increased spending locally on this issue.

One group who will be pleased with Monsieur Rattenburys housing announcement will be social workers out in Western NSW.

They will be able to tell their charges that although they regret we have little here for you; head to Canberra.

Of course homelessness could be eliminated by locking every person identified as homeless up in a “facility”, but I certainly hope that Mr Rattenbury isn’t even dreaming of such a draconian idea.

So realistically, homelessness can be reduced but never eliminated. As long as people have legal free will there will always be homelessness.

Claims that you are intending to do so are just as stupidly unrealistic as the “no child will live in poverty …” pronouncement from decades ago.

Certainly there are things that should be done to reduce homelessness but either this article is poor reporting or Mr Rattenbury’s grasp on reality is slipping.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.