The Guardian March 26, 2003


Housing boom is a bust for many

The rising cost of housing, steep rents and stagnant levels of public 
housing construction have been highlighted as a major cause of poverty in 
Australia. The Anglicare Australia's State of the Family 2003 report was so 
damning of the Federal Government that Family and Community Services 
Minister Amanda Vanstone pulled out of its launch.

The report shows that the Howard Government has failed the Australian 
people miserably, with increasing numbers sleeping in homeless shelters, 
living in caravan parks or in friend's lounge rooms.

"We have a crisis in housing across Australia that is clearly exacerbating 
poverty and disadvantage", Anglicare Victoria CEO, Dr Ray Cleary said.

The report says rising rental costs are locking many young Australian 
families out of the private rental market despite Commonwealth Rent 
Assistance, and public housing stock is not being constructed or replaced 
to meet anywhere near the demand.

In the eight years to June 2000, less than 10,000 houses were added to 
existing public stock in Australia yet over 200,000 people are languishing 
on waiting lists.

At the Federal level, the Government may cut funding for housing by $100 
million in 2003/04 because of withdrawal of the GST compensation money.

"This continuing under-funding of public housing must be reversed to save 
our children from an abyss leading into intergenerational poverty cycles", 
Dr Cleary said.

Anglicare's State of the Family Report 2003 found that areas of 
disadvantage are locationally focussed  while some regions grow and 
prosper, others are left behind.

In Victoria, Melbourne's northern region was identified by Anglicare as an 
area of concern and future welfare service need, due to the rapid 
construction of new housing estates.

"Already our case managers are taking calls from distressed parents 
attracted to cheap housing on the urban fringe who feel isolated and 
disconnected from services, education and employment", Dr Cleary said.

"Boom" stress

Many of Anglicare's findings were strongly similar to those in a 
Brotherhood of St Laurence report launched a month ago: Housing Stress: How 
have low-income households fared during the housing boom?

The Housing Stress report indicates people who are working poor or 
unemployed are experiencing more distress and debt as affordable housing 
becomes harder and harder to find.

The stress then becomes compounded when families end up in isolated housing 
projects away from employment prospects and other services, with many 
people developing mental illness as a result.

"People have told us they are paying up to 62 per cent of their incomes on 
housing, meaning they can't afford the medicines they need, the 
paediatrician's appointments their kids need, or even food", said 
Brotherhood of St Laurence researcher, Sally Jope.

"Although the Federal Government directs a whopping $21 billion to a range 
of current housing subsidies, only $2.6 billion of this it targets those 
who need it most."

The reports tells that 250,000 Australians on low incomes pay more than 30 
per cent of their income on housing costs, with this estimated to rise to 
one million by 2020.

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