Twelve Canberra individuals and families have spoken out about their experience of housing stress and homelessness in a new publication which combines true stories and voter voices with electorate by electorate data to present a fresh and alarming picture of Canberra’s housing crisis.
Stories of Home are part of a campaign called My Vote For Housing which is an initiative of ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter. My Vote For Housing invites voters and candidates to make affordable housing and reducing homelessness the heart of the ACT election due on 15 October 2016.
According to Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, “It is one thing to know the facts about our housing crisis and another to step into the shoes of people living it every day.
“In Stories of Home we meet a couple who both work and yet can’t afford a house with insulation through our ever longer hot summers and cold winters. We hear from men who went from a happy home to sleeping in cars or a motorhome following a relationship break-up. We hear from a refugee persecuted and homeless in Kurdistan from the age of 14 who now struggles to find shelter here. We meet a woman who was told she would never be a preferred tenant because she has children. After escaping family violence she now lives without heating or room for her son to play.
“People tell how surprisingly easy it is to fall into housing crisis – even when you feel secure. In our hyper-inflated market all it takes is a sudden bereavement or a tussle with a landlord over an issue like internet access to be left looking over the cliff of homelessness.
“Canberra can be a great city but it is not a great place for people who can’t afford housing. When confronted with the faces and reality of homelessness, including the fact that the ACT has the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia, ordinary voters have said Canberra can and should do better”, Ms Helyar said.
“These stories should be read by every candidate running in the October election and that is why ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter have spent the last few days meeting with candidates from all sides of politics across the Territory to amplify the message”, said Travis Gilbert, Executive Officer of ACT Shelter who are partnering with ACTCOSS on the My Vote For Housing campaign.
“As we hear the human toll of our housing problems, we hope to bring reality closer to home by presenting data from the 2015 Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot presented by ACT Electorate for the first time”, Mr Gilbert said.
“The Snapshot looked at the number of homes affordable for people on income support or low incomes in the ACT over a weekend in April 2015, out of more than 590 private rentals and shared houses advertised for rent in South-Eastern NSW. Private rentals and rooms in shared houses were surveyed from websites including Realestate.com.au, Allhomes.com.au and Gumtree.com.au.
“The snapshot identified those which could be afforded by people on low incomes without taking over 30% of their pay packet. This is the benchmark used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and adopted widely as an accurate measure of affordability.
“The data shows:
- There was no affordable housing for people living on Youth Allowance or the Disability Support Pension whatsoever and there was only 1 option available in one electorate for a single person on Newstart;
- There were only a handful of places affordable for people on an aged pension with Brindabella having the least (only 3 properties for a couple or single) and Yerrabi having no properties which could be afforded by a couple on an aged pension; and
- The electorates with the fewest affordable rental properties are in the south and centre of Canberra starting with Murrumbidgee (32), Brindabella (33) and Kurrajong (39), while Yerrabi (112) and Ginninderra (113) fared better.
“ACT Shelter and ACTCOSS call on all candidates to consider our strategies for change which include funding accommodation and support services to meet demand; developing whole-of-government responsibility for homelessness which would include reporting and minimum funding requirements for each ACT Directorate; and increasing the supply of affordable rental housing in the ACT”, Mr Gilbert said.
Check out the stories on our website.
For comment please contact:
Susan Helyar, Director, ACTCOSS on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.
Travis Gilbert, Executive Officer, ACT Shelter on 0420 699 405 or 02 6247 3727.
Authorised by Susan Helyar. My Vote For Housing is an initiative of ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness 2049.0’, ABS, Canberra 2011, p.22)