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Poverty: the common denominator in homelessness

Although the causes of homelessness are many, the common underlying factor is poverty. To mark Anti-Poverty Week,  CHP is highlighting how Victoria’s affordable housing crisis is inextricably linked to rising homelessness, and the cycle of poverty. Each day this week we'll also be posting daily case studies on the costs of homelessness.

Of all expenses in life, the cost of housing is the heaviest. Paying too much for housing when you’re on a low income leaves people struggling to put food on the table, let alone build up a buffer for emergencies.

Around one-third of Australians rent their home, and ABS data recently analysed by CHP shows that 1-in-4 renters in Victoria are low-income households (earning $640/week or less) who are paying more than they can afford (i.e. more than 30% of their income). The Herald Sun recently wrote a story about this data.

Worryingly, outer suburban and regional electorates which have traditionally been a place for cheap rent are home to some of the most rent stressed households in Victoria. Thomastown, Dandenong, St Albans, Bellarine, Nepean, Frankston and Melton are in the top 10 worst electorates for rental stress, and Broadmeadows tops the list with 37% of renting households in rental stress.

The top 10 worst metro electorates for rental stress (ranked as a proportion of all renting households) are below. View the full league table of all 88 electorates here.

Top 10 worst Victorian metro electorates for rental stress

Rank

State electorate

As a percentage of all renting households

Number of low income households paying more than 30% of income on rent

1

Broadmeadows

37%

2030

2

Yuroke (includes suburbs of Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park, Tullamarine)

34%

927

3

Thomastown

33%

1261

4

Dandenong

32%

2582

5

St Albans

32%

1998

6

Buninyong

31%

1353

7

Frankston

31%

2260

8

Melton

31%

1586

9

Keysborough

30%

1252

10

Lara (includes suburbs of Lara, Corio, Wyndham Vale)

30%

1905

When looking at raw numbers, the inner city electorates emerge as being home to the greatest number of households in rental stress (yet they make up a smaller proportion of the total renting population because renting is more prevalent in the inner city). For inner-city renters trying to escape high rents, moving further out isn’t the solution, as Melbourne’s rents continue to rise.

 We've mapped this housing stress across Victoria, and you can download it here.

The relationship between housing stress and homelessness is impossible to ignore.

In August, CHP released ABS statistics which showed the rate of homelessness in all 88 state electorates. When we cross-reference homelessness data with rental stress data, some alarming trends emerge.

There is a strong correlation between the areas with the most number of people in rental stress and those with high rates of homelessness. For example, the Melbourne electorate has the highest number of renting households in rental stress (4,179 households), and also has the second highest number of people who were counted as homeless in all of Victoria.

The electorate of Dandenong is the second worst electorate for rental stress (2,582 households) whilst holding the number three spot for homelessness in Victoria.

Amongst the top 20 most rental stressed state electorates, 15 of them are also in the top 20 worst electorates for homelessness.

This tells us what we already know – that if you’re on a low income and paying too much for housing, you’ll be struggling to make ends meet week-to-week, and also at risk of homelessness.

Our housing system is failing. There’s little in the private rental market for low-income households, and the safety nets to catch vulnerable people are just not adequate.

There are 35,000 people waiting for public housing and an average 11-month wait time. This article in The Age very clearly spells out the deficiencies. When people are priced out of the private rental market, there is not enough social housing to accommodate them, and they often end up in rooming houses, couchsurfing, in emergency accommodation and sleeping rough.

Seven peak bodies (CHP, Victorian Council of Social Services, Community Housing Federation of  Victoria, Domestic Violence Victoria, Tenants Union of Victoria, Victorian Public Tenants Association and Justice Connect) have released a plan  - Making Social Housing Work. It calls on the State Government to increase Victoria’s social housing stock to the national average of five per cent by 2020 (it currently sits at 3.4%) to ease the stress for low-income families.

To achieve this target, the alliance calls for an investment of $200 million p.a. to create 800 new social housing properties each year.

They’ve also highlighted a range of innovative ways to grow social housing such as including a minimum proportion of social housing in all new housing developments.

The affordable housing crisis isn’t going away, and yet we have yet to see a housing plan released by either of the major parties. With six weeks until the State election, we think it’s time that all parties showed their cards.

 

Electorates ranked by number of households in rental stress

Number of households in rental stress

Rank by number of people experiencing of homelessness

Number of people counted as homeless (ABS 2011)

1

Melbourne (2)

4179

2

1066

2

Dandenong (3)

2582

3

914

3

Geelong (39)

2342

39

206

4

Footscray (5)

2316

5

762

5

Prahran (8)

2277

8

550

6

Frankston (13)

2260

13

360

7

Preston (11)

2168

11

402

8

Brunswick (21)

2048

21

310

9

Broadmeadows (7)

2030

7

561

10

Oakleigh (17)

2016

17

346

11

St Albans (6)

1998

6

617

12

Richmond (4)

1966

4

812

13

Lara (32)

1905

32

263

14

Wendouree (34)

1871

34

252

15

Shepparton (14)

1848

14

359

16

Clarinda (9)

1826

9

520

17

Caulfield (19)

1798

19

339

18

Northcote (10)

1715

10

518

19

Bendigo West (53)

1710

53

161

20

Pascoe Vale (12)

1698

12

374

 

 

 


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