Two-thirds of homelessness services are unable to meet client demand under current Government funding, report shows

Last week the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) released a report that confirms what the sector has long known; that the current level of Government investment in homelessness services falls far short of what is needed.

The report, released on 28 April at the AHURI conference in Brisbane, entitled Inquiry into funding and delivery of homelessness programs, showed that only one-third of homelessness services said that they could meet current client needs with their existing funding.

This goes some way to explaining why last year 275 Australians were turned away every day from homelessness services due to a lack of resources (AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services, 2015-16)

The report showed that homelessness services are heavily reliant on government funding, most notably under the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH), with 86% of services being derived from Government.

And yet uncertainty continues to overshadow these two Federal funding streams, with the NPAH (worth $117 million p.a. nationally) due to expire in June 2018, and the NAHA (worth $1.3 billion nationally) at risk of being ‘repurposed’ in next week’s Federal Budget.

It would be an unmitigated disaster if the NAHA were scrapped or redirected, jeopardising 320,000 public housing households that currently rely on NAHA funding, not to mention the tens of thousands of Australians who are helped b homelessness services every year.

Budget rumours suggest that in next week’s Federal Budget Treasurer Scott Morrison will introduce a bond aggregator that makes it easier for community housing to borrow money to build affordable housing, but this initiative should be in addition to Government funding, not instead of.

Around 280,000 individuals sought help from homelessness agencies last year, a number that has increased by 9 per cent in just 12 months.  In the face of record demand, what the homelessness sector needs is greater certainty, and more funding, to be able to help people.

Although the AHURI report indicated that there is potential to grow funding from philanthropic streams and social impact investments, it very clearly concluded that these diversified funding streams will never be able to replace Government investment.

A major recommendation of the report is that that government should continue to be the major funder of homelessness services, and in fact must increase their investment.  As can be seen in the graph below, Commonwealth homelessness and housing funding has gone backwards in real terms, due to the lack of indexation.

We are keenly awaiting the outcome of the Federal Budget on Tuesday 9 May, as are the 105,000 Australians who are without a home every night. We encourage you to get behind the campaign to #SaveNAHA by signing the petition.