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Issue # 1404      25 March 2009

Housing repayment problems top of list for homelessness

Being unable to pay the rent or the mortgage has outstripped substance abuse and family breakdown as the main reason callers to the City of Sydney’s Homeless Person’s Information Centre (HPIC) are facing homelessness.

The number of callers to HPIC rose by more than 17 percent between 2007 and 2008 from 50,852 to 59,885 while the number of calls received in the first two months of 2009 has also set a new record with 6,392 in February and 5,852 in January.

The HPIC data released this month covers the last two years and shows more callers cited crisis eviction (10,191 calls) as a primary reason for homelessness in 2008 than any other category including family breakdown (8,643 calls), substance abuse (5,603 calls), mental health (3,228 calls) and domestic violence (2,056 calls). The number of callers citing crisis eviction and family breakdowns have risen significantly between 2007 and 2008, coinciding with increasing costs and economic pressure.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP said the trend painted a disturbing picture of Sydney’s housing affordability crisis as it spread across metropolitan city.

“The City has operated HPIC for the past 25 years and it’s only in the past two years that crisis eviction has emerged as the main reason people are giving for facing homelessness. This demonstrates that now is the time for action or the situation will become worse,” Ms Moore said.

“While the numbers are not exact, as there may be repeat callers or people calling on behalf of friends or family members, the trend is consistent with the current global economic crisis and shows that now, more than ever, Sydney needs more affordable housing.

“Particularly at this time we need to put people before profits. When it comes to affordable housing banks and developers need to work closely with our communities to reduce mortgage and rental stress.

“A target of the City’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 vision is to ensure 7.5 percent of all housing in 2030 is social housing and 7.5 percent is affordable housing by 2030. Research recently undertaken by the City identified dire social, economic and cultural consequences for the City if no action is taken to increase the supply of affordable housing. These statistics indicate this might already be happening.”

Callers in 2008 nominated the following suburbs (excluding interstate calls) as their last permanent place of residence: Surry Hills (1,474), Campbelltown (1,015), Liverpool (927), Sydney (833), Redfern (828), Darlinghurst (696), Marrickville (613), Blacktown (600), Mount Druitt (597) and Newcastle (593). While the largest number of callers nominated Surry Hills as their last permanent place of residence in 2008, the number of callers from the south-western suburbs of Campbelltown and Liverpool has risen significantly to pass City suburbs.

The City of Sydney has a target to eradicate chronic homelessness by 2017. The Council together with the state government jointly fund a homelessness brokerage service and a Street Outreach program which directly assists rough sleepers. The City has also just completed its second street count of rough sleepers which will be done twice a year.

Eighty-four per cent of callers in 2008 to HPIC needed accommodation that night and HPIC was able to successfully refer them to temporary accommodation providers in 77 percent of cases.

The City is seeking public comment on its Draft Affordable Rental Housing Strategy which identifies levers the City can use to provide, facilitate and advocate for the 7,959 new affordable housing dwellings and new social housing dwellings that must be built to achieve these ambitious targets.

“We are also working with a consortium to investigate a new model of supported housing called ‘Common Ground’ which provides permanent, socially integrated housing to the chronically homeless,” Ms Moore said.

The City also co-funds I-CHOSS, the Inner City Homeless Outreach Support Service, providing outreach assistance to rough sleepers to enable access to appropriate services and long term accommodation options.

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