Australia remains one of the economically prosperous countries in the world. But unfortunately, economic prosperity and growth do not guarantee the “Great Australian Dream” of home ownership or even a steady roof above one’s head.
According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), homelessness in Australia increased by 14% despite modest economic growth from 2011 to 2016. An estimated 116,427 Australians have no permanent home.
The ABS defines the homeless as someone whose “current living arrangement is in a dwelling that is inadequate, has no tenure and does not allow control of and access to space for social relations.”
The study revealed that for every 10,000 Australians, 50 are homeless and that 43,500 of these people are under the age of 25.
James Toomey, Chief Executive Officer of The Mission Australia, said the figures are unacceptable and are the result of poor political commitment nationally to build more affordable homes:
“We cannot afford to ignore this situation any longer. Safe and secure housing provides the platform for children to attend school, adults to work, people to be healthy and communities to thrive.”
46% of the homeless are composed of Australians who were born overseas. Another sector that has been impacted by the housing crisis is the elderly. For every 10,000 people, 27 are aged between 65 and 74 years old. Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders account for 20% of the homeless.
Katherine McKernan, Chief Executive Officer of Homelessness NSW believes that overcrowding was a significant factor in the 37% increase of homelessness in New South Wales:
“We still have around 60,000 people on the public housing waiting list and less than 1% of private rental properties in greater Sydney and surrounds are affordable for people on low incomes.”
Jenny Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Council to Homeless Persons in Victoria shared her opinion that the rising incidence of homelessness was simply failure of the government to address the situation:
“As a country, we’ve failed to tackle the housing affordability crisis and our homelessness services continue to be chronically underfunded. Homelessness is not a lifestyle choice. It reflects systems failure, and most critically, a shortage of affordable housing.
“In our state budget, we’ve already called for 14,500 more social housing properties, tripling the commitment already made to the Victorian government. However, without federal government investment in social housing and homelessness support, we’re just bucketing water on the Titanic.”