The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today told an ACT Legislative Assembly Inquiry that urgent action was needed to increase the supply of public and community housing.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell told the inquiry that the ACT Government must commit to the full, transparent and timely delivery of the ACT Housing Strategy and should empower Canberra’s community housing providers (CHPs) to build more community and affordable housing.
The Inquiry into Draft Variation 365: Housing Choices – Co-Housing and Boarding Houses sought submissions on arrangements for the zoning, compliance and development of co-housing and boarding house arrangements.
Dr Campbell said: “We welcome discussions on improving the range of homes available to Canberrans. However, there can be no real housing choice until we have enough homes for everyone – including people on low incomes and facing disadvantage.
“Addressing the ACT’s housing crisis must be a priority for the forthcoming ACT Budget. We have a shortfall of 3,100 social housing with at least 1,600 people experiencing homelessness daily. For Canberrans on low income or income support, the chances of finding an affordable private rental in the ACT are slim to none.
“We need the full, transparent and timely delivery of the ACT Housing Strategy and the delivery of all commitments in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement which includes 400 additional public houses and 600 affordable rental dwellings.
“This should include empowering CHPs to address the shortfall of affordable homes through access to affordable land, re-zoning to allow development by CHPs, and rates exemptions.
“Investment in social housing makes sense for the community and for the economy – for every $1 million of public investment in social housing, GDP is boosted by $1.3 million,” said Dr Campbell.
The ACT has Australia’s highest rate of rental stress among lower income private rental households at 73% and Canberrans face a 3.8 year wait for a standard public housing property. Virtually zero private rental properties on the market in the ACT are affordable to people on the Disability Support Pension, JobSeeker or Youth Allowance.
Dr Campbell said: “We cannot not stand by and watch the growing numbers of women and children escaping violence, older Canberrans and other vulnerable people face homelessness in the ACT.
“The forthcoming 2021-22 ACT Budget must prioritise fixing the ongoing housing crisis and ensure everyone has a safe and affordable home,” Dr Campbell said.
ACTCOSS also shared evidence from other jurisdictions that highlighted the risks of housing vulnerable people in private boarding houses as a permanent housing solution.
“In other jurisdictions, privately run boarding houses have a long history as unsafe, exploitative and troubled institutional environments for people who are on income support, have psycho-social disabilities, people who use drugs, have exited the justice system or have experienced trauma.
“Any housing solutions must ensure that vulnerable people are safe, have access to appropriate supports and are accommodated in ways that safeguard their dignity and human rights,” Dr Campbell concluded.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.