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Homelessness Being Driven by “Relentless” Rent Increases

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

A recent publication by Homelessness Australia has called upon the government to provide a further $450 million in funding to meet the increased need for homelessness services.

A woman sits holding a cardboard sign which reads "HOMELESS Looking & Willing to Work," with the text "Homelessness in Australia" foregrounded.

The document, titled “Housing crisis: Homelessness emergency,” states that “relentless rent increases and record low vacancy rates” are causing the increase in homelessness with services unable to meet demand and funding for services falling behind inflation.

In a statement, Chief Executive of Homelessness Australia, Kate Colvin, stated that services for homelessness are at a “snapping point” and more funding is needed:

“We were already stretched but now we are overwhelmed. Extraordinary times demand additional resources. Instead we are staring down the barrel of funding cuts.”

Homelessness Australia found that between January and September of 2023 almost 6000 AUstrlaians per month were seeking homelessness services compared to the same period in 2022, an increase of 6%. 

CoreLogic’s Quarterly Rent Review found that rents had increased by more than 30% between July 2020 and October of 2023. Homelessness Australia stated this increase represented an extra $137 per week to the median rent, which is now valued at $588. 

The document’s release follows a viral video showing groups of tents in Brisbane’s West End along the riverbank. The Courier Mail counted 73 tents within a 3 kilometre radius of Brisbane’s CBD. Ms. Colvin described how “more Australians are confronting the risk of sleeping on a friend’s couch, pitching a tent or living out of a station wagon.” 

The publication follows an analysis report from August of 2023 by Homelessness Australia which revealed that the number of Australians seeking support via a homelessness service increased by 7.5% between December 2022 and March 2023. This represents an extra 1600 people seeking support for homelessness each month.

The analysis report, titled Overstretched and overwhelmed: the strain on homelessness services, highlighted that nearly 3/4 of all Australians seeking homelessness support were women and children. 

Ms. Colvin said that the rising number of Australians seeking support was making it more difficult for such services to provide for those in need

“Support services are triaging based on people’s vulnerability and need,  but the reality is highly vulnerable people are being turned away because services simply have too few staff and other support resources. When you annualise this demand and add it to the existing people turned  away we are looking at a funding shortfall of more than $450 million. This is just one terrible side effect of the worst housing crisis in living memory."

The coalition of organisations sought limits on rent increases, an end to no-grounds evictions, basic energy standards, better enforcement of tenancy legislation and calling on governments to make 10% of all dwellings dedicated to social housing. The groups signed a statement stating that the current market was characterised by "instability,  insecurity, and a lack of adequate protections”.

How Many People Are Homeless in Australia?

According to the latest census data from 2021, more than 120,000 Australians are facing homelessness. This represents a 5% increase since the previous census in 2016, which itself was a 14% increase form the previous census in 2011. In other words, over the course of a decade, homelessness in Australia has worsened by nearly 20%.* Australia's rate of homelessness is 48 out of every 10,000 people, one of the worst rates of homelessness per capita compared to all other OECD countries. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, roughly 175,000 households were awaiting public housing in 2022. 

*Based on 102,439 Australians recorded as experiencing homelessness in the 2011 census compared to the 122,494 in the 2021 census.

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