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What can you do about housing and homelessness?

Change the government and you change the country. Paul Keating’s aphorism rings true for housing and homelessness where a series of labour governments have laid out significant policies and funding.

The Queensland government announced a $3.1 billion Housing Plan at the beginning of this year and has followed that up with a commitment to fund 8 Youth Foyers as well as a $390 million funding boost to frontline services to increase their capacity. It’s great to see a government recognise that an under-resourced homeless sector is limited in its ability to respond and make meaningful change.

New South Wales has appointed a new role of a Rental Commissioner to give a voice to renters.

It has also created Homes NSW, which brings together the housing and homelessness services of the NSW Department of Communities and Justice with NSW Land and Housing Corporation and the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office and key worker accommodation under one roof.

The new division is also tasked with turbocharging the construction, maintenance, and repair of social and affordable homes in the state.

Construction workers

Meanwhile, in Victoria the Big Housing Build announced in 2020, has the government investing $5.3bn into social and affordable housing to create 12,000 new social and affordable dwellings by end 2024.

The Federal government is taking an over-arching role in defining a national housing and homelessness strategy while also launching the Housing Australia Future Fund to deliver 30,000 social and affordable dwellings over the next five years.

It’s a lot of action, but there is a big gap to fill. According to the national campaign, Everybody’s Home, we need an extra 640,000 homes to address homelessness.

We are making up for decades of neglect and while increasing housing supply is a big part of the answer, building houses faces major physical restraints.

While the Federal Government wants to see 1.2million homes built in the next five years, which would require 240,000 dwelling starts each year.

The last time we ever came close to those kinds of numbers was in 2016. In the current market the constraints of labour and materials make it a hard target to reach.

The response from government is encouraging, but additional commitments need to be made for decades into the future to have a meaningful impact.

To ensure this, communities must continue to advocate for housing equity. There’s another aphorism which works here – that politics is downstream of culture. Governments have acted because communities have changed their view on housing and homelessness.

Ten years ago, homelessness was a fringe issue and housing policy was about getting people on the housing ladder. The change is because housing has become an issue for everyone, while homelessness has become more visible.

What can you do about housing and homelessness? Keep letting the government know that you care.