Anti-Poverty Week 2016 – Tipping points into homelessness

During Anti-Poverty Week (16th – 22nd October) we’re highlighting the impact that the rising cost of housing is having on people from all walks of life.

People in severe housing stress (a formula applied to people in the lowest 40% of income brackets who are paying more than 30% of their income on housing) are so often living on the knife edge of homelessness.

When you’re paying more than you can afford for housing, you can’t save money let alone pay for basics. Ordinary life events, such as a car breaking down, medical costs, or having your casual shifts cut, can be the tipping point into homelessness.

Low-income earners in unaffordable housing are forced to make choices between buying groceries or paying the electricity bill; getting new school uniforms or buying medication. Living in poverty creates extra strain on mental health, relationships and family function.

Last week we learnt about the exorbitant rents that vulnerable people in rooming houses are forced to pay, with some paying up to 83% of their income for a single room, and having no alternative options.

Recently we released data which showed that working women on the average  female wage of $882/week have a shrinking number of suburbs where they could rent a a one-bedroom flat without finding themselves in rent stress.

Previous analysis of ABS statistics found that 120,000 Victorian households are earning $640 or less per week, and paying at least a third of that on rent.

In all of Melbourne, just 1-in-300 one-bedroom rentals are affordable to someone on a Newstart income (DHS, March 2016). If you’re on a single parent payment looking for a two-bedroom rental, you’ll have just 2-in-100 properties that would be affordable to you.

There is no shortage of evidence to show that the housing system is broken, and that a lack of affordable accommodation is contributing to people’s poverty.

Throughout Anti-Poverty Week we are rolling out a series of vignettes and infographics of people who find themselves on the edge of homelessness when the high cost of housing collides with the ‘tipping point’ of an unexpected life event.

Although these case studies are not real people, they represent all-too-familiar examples of the people that the homelessness sector supports every day. 

With skyrocketing rents in the private market and 32,000 people waiting for public housing, we continue to call on both the State and Federal Government to take action to fix the broken housing system so that people aren’t forced to live in poverty just to put a roof over their head.

At the Federal level, we want to see:

  • A national housing affordability strategy which lays out a plan for tackling the housing crisis, and eliminating homelessness
  • Tax reform, including winding back negative gearing and capital gains concessions 
  • The expansion of affordable rental programs such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme
  • Newstart and Youth Allowance payments increased so that people aren’t forced to live in poverty

At the State level, we want to see:

  • A boost in the supply of affordable and social housing for low-income earners
  • The introduction of Inclusionary Zoning, whereby all new housing developments over 10 units, must include a minimum 10% social housing
  • Greater incentives for developers to invest in social housing e.g. tax concessions, density bonuses
  • Better use of vacant Government land for social housing   

You can visit our blog page to read more about the ‘Tipping points into homelessness and download resources and infographics from the Anti-Poverty Week website.