More rapid rehousing programs are needed to keep families out of rooming houses

An investigation by Lateline this week confirmed that families are being pushed into rooming houses due to Victoria’s housing affordability crisis. With less than one in 10 rental properties affordable to someone on a Centrelink income and Melbourne’s media rent hitting $400 a week, people on low incomes are left with few accommodation options.  This alarming trend is seeing unacceptable numbers of children living in overcrowded rooming houses where up to 10 people can be sharing just one bathroom and kitchen.

The impact of such living arrangements on children is of particular concern. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data showed that 200 children under 18 in Victoria were living in rooming houses when they sought assistance from homelessness services and 134 of them were under nine years old. However, it’s possible the numbers are even higher, since the AIHW data only records people who accessed services. CHP’s CEO Jenny Smit stressed that rooming houses are no place for children.

“No family would choose to live in a single room, crowded under the same roof with strangers and pay up to $300 for the privilege,” Ms Smith says.

“Rooming houses are the choice you make when there is no other choice.”

Although the problem looks huge, Ms Smith stressed there are ways to fix it.

“The solution is to increase Victoria’s level of social housing to the national average of 5 percent in the long term and helping families get into private rental by assisting them with bonds and short-term financial assistance to get on their feet in the short term,” Ms Smith says.

CHP has proposed  an annual investment of $10 million in Rapid Rehousing programs that would help people living in unstable situations to secure rentals, and assist them to keep those rentals. You can read more about this proposal in our Pre Budget Submission.

This problem is no longer confined to metropolitan areas. Homelessness services in regions including Gippsland, Shepparton, Geelong and Mildura are also reporting increases in the number of people living in rooming houses. CHP’s full report on rooming houses can be viewed here.