ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Push for housing as key ACT Election issue: voters invited to "Make My Vote for Housing"

17 October 2015

One year out from the coming ACT Election, Canberra’s 270,000 voters are today being urged to make housing and homelessness key issues in deciding the poll.

Following a week which has thrown the spotlight on housing costs driving poverty in Canberra during Anti-Poverty Week, the peak bodies ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter have joined forces to unveil a yearlong campaign to enable voters to have their voice heard on Canberra’s housing affordability crisis.

According to ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar, “We’re inviting Canberrans to make this election about first order issues that the next ACT Government needs to take urgent action to address. Most of us know there simply isn’t enough housing within reach of ordinary Canberrans and have experienced housing stress in our own lives or are concerned about the limited housing choices many people face. 

“Budgets for people in private rental are being squeezed by high rents. At the other end of the scale home ownership is getting further out of reach for households with below average incomes. There are waiting lists for public housing and people are sleeping rough, couch surfing, living in overcrowded housing or staying in unsafe relationships to keep a roof over their head.  

“There is a shortage of accessible housing for people with disabilities in the open market and in private rental despite us being a trial site for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“We're concerned that the public debate often focuses on second order issues such as the aesthetics of specific urban renewal projects. The real housing challenge in Canberra is the growing gap between incomes and housing costs, and the lack of diverse housing forms. 

“Improving the land supply pipeline is important but focussing on land supply alone will not produce the kinds of affordable and accessible housing options we need.”

Travis Gilbert, Executive Officer for ACT Shelter, said homelessness is real in Canberra despite our image of cosy affluence. “We hear from people who are one pay check away from homelessness – a situation complicated by changing work patterns. Those at risk include women, especially later in life or those escaping domestic violence.

“Students battle to study and find a place to sleep and far too many young people sleep rough or couch surf. And worst of all, there are more people than you think sleeping rough in our city during brutal Canberra winters.  

“The last census in 2011 recorded an 88% increase in the NUMBER of people counted as experiencing homelessness in the ACT (1,785 up from 949 in 2006).”, Mr Gilbert said. 

To start the campaign ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter have launched a new online platform which supports Canberra voters to make housing the heart of the ACT Election. It can be found at: 

www.myvoteforhousing.com.au

The platform highlights that Canberra has some of the highest private rents, growing demand for homelessness services as well as pockets of deep housing stress and poverty.

It aims to challenge voter assumptions about affluence in Canberra and reveal to ACT Election candidates some uncomfortable home truths about the level of housing stress, homelessness and housing poverty. It provides clear information on what commitments are sought from all candidates. 

Above all it provides ordinary Canberra voters with the tools they need to bring housing issues to the forefront of the election campaign. 

It will invite Canberra voters to #MakeMyVoteForHousing through online campaigning and initiating grassroots discussions with their local candidates. 

The campaign website is funded by a bequest from CHC Affordable Housing as a tribute to the late Ken Horsham.

For more information or 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.