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Our Leaders Must Address Some Home Truths On Homelessness

105,000 people live homeless in Australia on any given night.

28/06/2016 5:39 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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"It’s now up to all political parties to ensure housing affordability is a top-tier federal election issue."

If you're a human being, then you need shelter to survive. If you're a human being living in our economic world, then you need money to get the shelter, to survive. And if you're one of more than 500,000 low-income earning Australian households looking for a home that you can afford to rent, then that shelter is simply not there to find.

Australia is in the midst of a housing crisis, with house prices and rents rapidly increasing, and people paying so much for housing that they are pushed into financial hardship.

Housing affordability affects all of us; it accounts for the biggest expense in every Australian household budget, and affordability is getting worse every year.

Yet we do not have a national plan to do anything about it.

House prices in Australia have escalated by almost 140 percent in the past 10 years. For would-be home owners, this means being in the rental market for longer, or being forced into insurmountable debt if buying a house is even an option.

This increases competition among renters, causing households to either 'rent down' or spend more than they can afford to in rent. It also adds to the current shortage of half a million properties available to low and middle-income earners.

Australian wages have stagnated while capital city rents have increased at twice the rate of inflation in the past five years. Now over 150,000 low-income earners in private rentals are paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, even after receiving rent assistance.

Record high house prices also increase the price of providing community housing. This limits the number of community housing places that can be offered to the more than 205,000 households that are waiting for public housing today. This includes women and children escaping domestic violence.

Housing unaffordability is the main cause of homelessness for the majority of the 105,000 people living homeless in Australia on any given night. In 2014-15, financial and accommodation issues accounted for more than half (53 percent) of all people seeking assistance from our homelessness services.

The number of people being forced to sleep in their cars because they can no longer keep up with rising housing costs has also doubled in Australia in the past five years.

The increased demand for our homelessness services alone highlights the Federal Government's failure to address both the growing housing crisis and the lack of planning and action to increase levels of housing affordable to low and middle-income households.

We're doing all we can to support households struggling to keep up with the rising cost of housing, but our services are struggling to meet ever-increasing demand.

It's now up to all political parties to ensure housing affordability is a top-tier federal election issue, and for governments to establish a national housing plan in response.

That's why Homelessness Australia together with National Shelter, the Community Housing Industry Association and the Australian Council of Social Service have created the change.org/votehome campaign, to build a movement of Australians calling on political parties to take action to end the housing crisis.

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