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.