- This IS a national emergency. There are 200,000 households on the public housing waiting list. That means 200,000 households are already homeless (2012 census puts the actual homeless figure at over 100,000), or unable to afford both rent and adequate food and utilities.¹
- The current housing crisis has been created by reckless government policy that has led to rampant house-price inflation, combined with flat-lined low incomes and pensions. The gap between low income and house purchase and rental prices continues to widen in Australia. Neither the working poor nor those who are dependent on pensions are now able to afford safe and healthy housing.
- We need a national strategy to address housing affordability, with different state based responses meaning no equity from state to state for those who are experiencing housing stress.
- Subsidising rich developers will not work. Some states are basing their entire strategy on the trickle down effect, that postulates that when you make the rich richer, that somehow trickles down to the poor. We all know it doesn’t. Tax payer funded subsidies to rich developers to develop a small number of new residences priced at 75% of market value will not reduce the number of households in crisis.
- Women now make up the majority of the homeless. Women who have worked as carers, whether underpaid or unpaid, have few if any resources to call on when house prices inflate.
- Most housing stressed and homeless are only financially challenged, not behaviourally challenged. These financially challenged can merge seamlessly into any neighbourhood once housed. This means that the financially challenged can be re-housed in safe and pleasant living environments. However, this can only happen if the Australian housing providers are willing to admit that the behaviourally challenged must be handled as a separate demographic and kept away from the well socialised — something they will not do.
- The greatest danger to homeless women is homeless men. Women are frequently exposed to higher levels of personal danger when homeless or even when housed by public housing. Women who are simply financially challenged are frequently housed, by the housing providers, in dangerously close proximity to behaviourally challenged men.
- Women hide to keep themselves safe.The level of female, particularly mature age female, homelessness, is invisible because women know how to keep their homeless status invisible. They hide by couch surfing with increasingly reluctant friends, house-sitting, living unwillingly overseas in a third world nation, sleeping in their cars, living in road vehicles with secret “caravans” of other women. Many women prefer these options to public housing where they are placed in substandard accommodation in close proximity to the behaviourally challenged.
- There is enough existing housing for everyone: it’s just not affordable. We do not need a massive building program. We need to get some of the 89,863 houses on airbnb² back onto the housing market. We also need to get some of the 300,000 houses simply withheld from the market as speculative ventures — back on the market ³. After that, if this action alone does not cause rental prices to drop to affordable levels for those on minimum wage or less, the minimum wage and pensions must be increased to the level where they can pay rent. All other responses are failing to address the systemic issue that has resulted from faulty economic management over successive governments. Whilst we do need continued steady investment in public housing to keep it available for those who cannot manage their own lives without support, the vast majority of the currently homeless population is not from this demographic. They just need affordable houses.
- This IS a national emergency that requires a nationally coordinated emergency response. The emergency response must be to construct some form of temporary transit camps or pop-up housing, to house the currently homeless, until changed government policy can return existing housing to affordable prices. These camps must be segregated by gender, male only, female only and mixed gender family, to keep the women and children safe from the behaviourally challenged men who will also seek refuge in these camps.
- The numbers of homeless women will increase for many years from now without immediate, serious and radical measures, implemented now. 45% of single women over 45 are living on the minimum wage or less⁴ — that’s more than 330,000 single women. Women’s roles are not only routinely paid a lower hourly rate than men’s roles, but are also disproportionately impacted by the increasingly casualised workforce. This under-payment of women is endemic, and has resisted all attempts to achieve pay equity for half a century. Homeless figures will continue to swell as these women lose the housing they have.
Do we care that this country
has turned single women and mothers into
refugees in their own land?
Do we care that women and children fleeing violence are forced to return to their tormentors because they cannot find long-term affordable housing? Do we care that old women who have contributed a lifetime of care-giving to this country are sleeping, terrified, alone and in pain, in their cars?
Let’s make this the major election issue in every state and federal election from now on. The only way we will get action is if one of the two main parties is guaranteed to LOSE the next election if they cannot present a fully costed and budgeted program to provide housing safety for ALL at risk women within 12 months of being elected — and all men within two years. We have the numbers. We just have to get the message out there and get ourselves mobilised.