Spotlight on NSW social housing

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People in NSW are being invited to petition the state government to eliminate the 50,000 social housing property shortfall.

Vinnies NSW is calling for an urgent increase in social housing to ease the 100,000-strong social housing waiting list across the state.

Jack de Groot, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, said it is self-evident that more housing will help address the chronic homelessness problem, but there is not enough “concrete action on the ground” to make the necessary 50,000 government-sponsored rental properties available for vulnerable low-income earners and their dependants.

“The NSW Government has a building plan, but we need to urgently ramp that up and take major action to house our growing population,” he said.

St Vincent de Paul NSW CEO Jack de Groot. PHOTO: Supplied

The organisation launched its ‘Build Homes, Build Hope’ campaign calling for a commitment from the State Government to build an extra 5000 social housing properties per year for the next decade, in line with World Homeless Day on 10 October.

It is inviting NSW residents to sign its petition for more social housing at vinnies.org.au/socialhousing.

“We have a good, strong economy in NSW and the Government is doing a fantastic job in transport and roads, but we also need social infrastructure in terms of housing,” Mr de Groot told The Catholic Weekly.

“If the Government could put its shoulder to the wheel and over the next decade build 50,000 homes that would give the people on the social housing waiting list a whole lot of security.

“We know from experience that a lot of other issues fall into place for people once they have got a stable home.”

In addition, the quality of older social housing stock was poor and urgently needed renewing across the state, Mr de Groot said.

“New housing stock will have better environmental standards; they will be more energy efficient meaning that the cost to low-income households of paying their electricity or gas bills will decline, which we daily see is a huge issue for many people,” he said.

Rita Burrows and her husband pays three quarters of their combined aged pension on rent. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Rita Burrows and her husband pay three quarters of their combined aged pension on private rent and are daunted by the poor availability of social housing in Sydney. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

A recent report from the Productivity Commission showed that many households on low incomes are barely getting by in private rentals. It found that 66 percent of low-income households spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, while more of this cohort – including families and single-parent households – are spending years stuck in the situation.

“We’re failing people on low incomes,” Mr de Groot said. “It’s important that government step in and fulfil its social obligation to house those who are homeless.

“But it doesn’t have to do this by itself. It can partner with the private sector, the churches, community organisations to attend to this housing shortfall which is actually more of a crisis.”

Matthew Talbot Hostel accommodation manager Mark Purchase welcomed World Homeless Day and said that people who are experiencing homelessness require hope, above all, that they can find stability in life.

“This could be finding safe and secure housing. It could be securing employment, being able to get consistent meals and being able to eat in a safe environment, it could be receiving quality health care and assistance in managing alcohol or drug-related concerns, the ability to obtaining clean and fresh clothes,” he said.

“It may be simply reaching out and connecting with services where they have not been able to do so before and not to be judged or valued differently but to be treated as equals among society.

“All of these things are important and it is the key for services such as ours to actively listen to what an person is experiencing and help them to express and reach their goals.”

The hostel offers accommodation and support to people who are homeless or at risk of it including a shelter for men around the Sydney CBD.

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