The Guardian • Issue #1975

Housing is a human right: tackling homelessness

Safe, secure, and healthy housing is a basic human need and right. But in the capitalist system, this right does not exist, as instead housing is a commodity and avenue for profit-making of the wealthy.

We already have the material capacity to guarantee every single Australian housing. The 2016 census recorded over 116,000 people homeless on census night (the current figure may be double or more), but over one million vacant dwellings. It is clear that this system is incapable of efficiently allocating resources – if by efficiently we mean fulfilling people’s needs, rather than the greed of a few.

But the federal and state governments, whether Coalition or Labor, do not wish to solve this problem. The interests of property investors and real estate firms come first, and the threat of homelessness, the manufactured scarcity of housing, functions to push up prices. Guaranteeing housing would be a shock to the market, losing some very wealthy people some of their wealth. This matters more to our current political system than the very lives of poor and working-class people.

According to research by the University of Western Australia, fifty-six people died on the streets of Perth in 2020, more than one person per week. Twenty-eight per cent of these victims of capitalism were Indigenous people, an order of magnitude greater than their proportion of the population.

Noongar woman and mother of six Alana Garlett tragically passed away in Perth City in June. A vigil was held on the 3rd of August outside WA Parliament House calling for justice, and an end to deaths on the street.

Ms Garlett’s sister Michelle Garlett said: “Our family would like my sister’s death to be the last homeless person on the streets.”

Sadly, less than two weeks later, another homeless Indigenous woman died in Perth.

Angry protesters blocked traffic, but they were moved on by police.

No matter how wealthy a country is, so long as the capitalist system remains it is incapable of providing basic needs to everyone, because it is not in the interests of the ruling class to do so. Every Australian billionaire has blood on their hands that will not wash off.

The Communist Party of Australia puts forward the following policies for housing:

  • Substantial increases in government funding from all three levels of government for the construction of public housing, restoration of existing public housing and purchase of additional homes from the private sector.
  • Reverse the present trend where governments spend six times more on private housing – through grants and subsidies to home buyers – than they spend on public housing.
  • Planned construction of public housing in rural and regional areas as well as cities according to social needs.
  • Construction of public housing to be carried out by the public sector and wherever possible Australian products to be used.
  • Public housing to be integrated with other housing and to provide for a mix of people. There should be no pockets of public housing for the disadvantaged.
  • Raise eligibility for public housing to an income level of $80,000.
  • State governments to exercise their powers to control rents on private housing and to plan development in response to social needs, not the wishes of profiteering developers.
  • Public housing to have a set rental as a percentage of income.
  • Rental reductions for public housing tenants in cases of loss of jobs through retrenchment or sickness.
  • Measures to protect tenants during periods of financial stress.
  • Superannuation funds to be required to invest a certain percentage of their funds in the construction of public housing with a return of income from government.
  • Timely and proper maintenance and upkeep of all public housing.

The CPA will do its utmost to expose and oppose all politicians and political parties who support the privatisation of public housing and public housing land.

The policy document points out: “In a modern, industrialised and relatively wealthy nation like Australia there is no excuse for homelessness or people being forced into sub-standard accommodation.”

No one should be freezing to death in the streets in a rich country. We must demand a better society where the needs of all are the concern of all, and no one fears being thrown to the curb. That society can only be a socialist one.

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