ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Community Sector United on ACT Budget Priorities

10 November 2014

In response to the 2015-2016 ACT Budget Consultation the ACT community sector have identified affordable housing and homelessness as the major policy issues needing long term planning and investment by the ACT Government.

Research commissioned in 2013 by the ACT Anti-Poverty Week Steering Committee and undertaken by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling found that the ACT has the highest average rents in the country and that, according to 2011 data the ACT had the second highest rate of homelessness of all Australian States and Territories.

Commenting on the sector’s collective endorsement of housing as the priority area for government action Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, stated: “Put simply, without adequate investment in affordable housing and reducing homelessness we do not believe that the government will be able to deliver on its stated priorities for health, education, equitable growth, liveability and opportunity.”

Ms Helyar further stated that: “The prevention of homelessness is a whole-of-government responsibility requiring collaboration between the economic policy levers that create jobs, ensure adequate income when people are not in paid work, provide affordable housing and enable access to a range of social supports, including services that help people to access jobs.”

Others in the sector echoed this view and shared their priorities for action:

Travis Gilbert, Executive Officer of Shelter ACT said: “Shelter ACT supports this priority for the ACT Budget because the foundation for community inclusion, social and economic participation and health and wellbeing is an affordable, safe and secure home.”

Stephen Fox, Manager of National Disability Services ACT said: "Doing more on the provision of affordable housing is not an optional extra. It will be the litmus test of the effectiveness of this administration."

Toora Women Inc. Executive Director Susan Clarke-Lindfield  noted the lack of affordable housing options: “Toora Women Inc. is deeply concerned about the affordable housing shortage in the ACT and fully supports the ACTCOSS budget submission.”

Northside Community Service CEO Simon Rosenberg confirmed that: "Northside Community Service strongly supports the Housing Ask in the ACTCOSS Budget Submission; particularly the focus on addressing the widening gap in the market between public housing and so-called affordable housing. Policy settings need to explicitly target the bottom two income quintiles."

Sue Salthouse, Convenor of Women With Disabilities ACT highlighted the importance of accessibility: “The Government should make amendments to the building code to ensure that minimum standards for accessibility are met in both private and public housing, to maximise the ability of older Canberrans to age in place.”

Robert Altamore, Executive Officer of People with Disabilities, agreed with this, stating that there is a need for: “An increase in the numbers of accessible and conveniently located houses for people with disabilities.”

In endorsing this budget submission the National Council of Women of the ACT said: “We are concerned that many older women in Canberra cannot afford suitable housing. Older women on lower incomes, with very little savings, who do not own their own home are some of our most vulnerable people. The provision of affordable housing is something that the ACT Government must address immediately.”

Jeremy Halcrow, Chief Executive Officer Anglicare, NSW South, NSW West & ACT stated: "Anglicare sees safe and secure housing as pivotal in helping people to thrive in employment, education, family relationships, community participation and healthy lifestyles. Our research both in the ACT and nationally has highlighted the devastating impact homelessness and housing unaffordability has on people's lives. Housing costs are one of the key drivers of food insecurity which in turn leads to hunger, poor nutrition and health impacts. It should be noted that despite Canberra households having a relatively high median income, the city has a very high homelessness rate, which has worsened dramatically in recent years, compared to other states. The ACT government has a key role in responding to the lack of affordable housing through its budget process."

Ensuring accessible and affordable housing is available has a flow-on effect in terms of the delivery of other services, as Carrie Fowlie, Executive Officer, of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Association (ATODA) highlights: “Effectively addressing housing and homelessness is essential and complementary to the investment in, and effective delivery of, services in the alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector. ATODA supports the ACTCOSS joint sector budget statement on Housing.”

Frances Crimmins, CEO of YWCA Canberra and Co-Chair of the ACT Anti-Poverty Week co-ordination group stated: “The lack of affordable housing is a major driver of poverty in the ACT. Preventing, responding better and reducing recurrence of homelessness, especially for women and their children, is a top priority for the YWCA.”

Anthony Rochester, Executive Officer of Connections ACT stated that: "With the second highest rate of homelessness in the country, the ACT needs the most cost-effective and efficient way to access the system. Central intake for homelessness ensures the most vulnerable Canberrans have equitable access to limited resources.”

Explaining her support for this budget priority Dee McGrath, CEO of Carers ACT, said: “What will happen to the person I care for when I can no longer care? is a key concern for caring families in the ACT. That's why investing in housing pathways to provide appropriate, sustainable accommodation to alleviate this fear and provide security to caring families and their family members with disability is a 2015-16 ACT Budget priority for Carers ACT.”

Emma Robertson, Director of the Youth Coalition of the ACT said: “Housing affordability is a big issue for young people in Canberra and with youth unemployment on the rise we do need to take action now. In coming together on the Budget Asks, the community sector is highlighting that housing is an issue for all of us in Canberra who want to belong to a thriving and successful community.”

After broad consultation with the sector ACTCOSS has released a set of recommendations in its Budget Submission which represent the sector’s collective advice to government on how to address homelessness, how to provide effective service responses to ensure that people in crisis can avoid homelessness, and to ensure that an affordable housing market exists and meets the needs of low income and vulnerable households in the ACT.

Recommendations in the Budget Submission focus on:

  • Preventing homelessness
  • Increasing housing market responses to housing needs
  • Improving service responses to people who are homeless
  • Developing a long term plan to increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.