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Public housing in crisis as available stock dwindles

Kelly Hughes  |  28 March 2017  |  News

A report by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute revealed Australia’s public housing supply decreased by 4.1 per cent in the last fifteen years despite a surge in demand.

Australian government bodies like Government Property NSW have privatised the sale of public housing stock, auctioning off more than $1 billion worth of property since 2011.

Soaring house prices, record low interest rates, strong population growth and tax incentives for investors, like negative gearing means low-income Australians are being pushed to the outer fringes, said former Adelaide University Economics lecturer, Dr. Tom Sheridan.

“The government is battling against income and expenditure and see it purely as an ideological decision,” he said.

He said despite pulling out of public housing stock, the state government is not offsetting the losses or offering support services for those in need.

Those on high priority public housing lists include women and children fleeing domestic violence and people living below the poverty line.  

The Australian Council of Social Service released a Poverty In Australia Report for 2016, which estimates 2.9 million Australians are living below the poverty line.

Three decades ago in 1986, the number of people waiting for public housing in Australia was 39,600. In 1992 that number shot up by 5.8 per cent to 41, 892.

A report by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, revealed more than 250,000 Australians are currently waiting for public housing dwellings, with numbers forecasted to increase.

The increase in privitisation is weakening the safety net for disadvantaged Australians.

Earlier this week, residents of Ashburton, an affluent suburb in Melbourne, took to the streets to protest over the Victorian Labor Government’s plan to sell off public housing land from the Markham Estate to private developers.

The Andrews government has sold off 70 per cent of the land to developers in 2015.

Despite the government building new public houses, the houses are much smaller and don’t meet the growing demand for public housing, said Jack Roach president of the Melbourne Boroondara Resident Action Group (BRAG), a grassroots organisation formed to prevent the privitisation of public housing.

“It’s a total con,” he said.

“The government says there will be a ten percent increase in public houses, but it’s a total con because there are less bedrooms and accommodation for the people.”

“Local residents are not against the provision of an increase in public housing on this site but their main concerns centre around the very large private housing component proposed and the total lack of public consultation.”

“It’s millions of dollars profit for the government, there’s a lot of money involved in the sale of private dwellings, and they’re flogging off the private sector.”

“The Victorian government is being dishonest by not consulting the community about the proposal. It’s public land and they should not be selling it off for profit,” he said.

He said he hopes the government will reconsider the proposal to assist the growing number of Australians in urgent need of public housing.

The Turnbull government announced earlier this week it will deliver a package to address the growing concerns for housing affordability in this year's May budget.


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