Shared Equity home ownership opportunities for older women

A Grant to End Homelessness was awarded to QShelter and Zonta to provide a better understanding of home ownership options for older women on low incomes, who are at risk of homelessness. The report included a deep dive into shared equity schemes along with research with 166 women to learn more about their current financial status to better understand their ability to repay a loan.

The report included financial modelling of a number of scenarios for women at different ages, income levels, available savings for deposits, various mortgage terms and property values.

The results showed that a shared equity scheme may be suitable for:

  • single women aged 45 – 55 years
  • earning $55,000 – $80,000
  • property price: $300,000
  • equity share: 50%
  • maintenance costs per fortnight: $200
  • mortgage term: 15 years
  • deposit available: up to $30,000

Modelling showed that shared equity would be affordable for this cohort of women in terms of housing cost (less than 30% of income) and cost of living benchmarks (less than 80% of gross income).

QShelter has shared the research with the private sector, financial sector and community sector representatives to investigate alternative ways to finance housing, including shared equity for older women.

QShelter plans to continue running workshops and making presentations to State and Federal Government and other key stakeholders with a view to piloting a scheme in the near future.

The report can be downloaded here: Shared Equity Schemes for Older Women in Queensland – Gold Star Project

The cost of not investing in housing

The Give Me Shelter report by Housing All Australians in partnership with SGS Economics provides an economic analysis of the long term costs to Australia if we do not provide sufficient housing for everyone.

The study shows that the lack of investment in housing has led to a decrease in social housing from 6% to 4% of housing stock. That’s an actual decrease of 33%.

The report estimates that the failure to act on shelter needs will cost the community $25 billion per year by 2051. The economic return is stated as ‘every $1 the Australian community invests in social and affordable housing will deliver $2 in benefits.’

The report makes the case for investing in social and affordable housing as offering strong economic and social returns. And it’s the right thing to do.

Read about the report and download it here.

Trafficking in Persons Report 2022

The USA’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2022 was recently released. The annual report includes topics of special interest, such as forced labour and clean energy transition and the climate crisis and its impact on trafficking. The report ranks each country by tier, with tier 1 being the highest and 3 the lowest. The tier is determined by their government’s efforts to combat trafficking. The report provides a narrative for each country with recommendations.

Australia is given a tier 1 ranking and the report offers a number of recommendations, including:

  • increase efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups
  • further de-link the provision of service from participation in the criminal justice process
  • continue efforts to train police, immigration officials and other front line officers,
  • increase efforts to investigate and hold accountable foreign diplomats posted in Australia suspected of complicity in trafficking
  • establish a national compensation scheme for trafficking victims.

Read the report here.

Investment in housing is critical to addressing domestic and family violence

A report from Monash University to inform the next National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 was released on 14 July. The report places housing at the forefront of the next National Plan, requiring significant investment in social housing and affordable housing that is tailored to the meet the needs of the family or individuals impacted by family, domestic and sexual violence.

Housing is viewed by stakeholders as the foundation to healing and recovery from domestic and family violence.

The key findings on desired outcomes for housing are:

  • Housing must be at the forefront of the next National Plan.
  • The Commonwealth Government should undertake a national review to determine the level of demand, supply and cohorts’ needs for a fully funded safe housing system.
  • The next National Plan should commit to delivering a significant investment into social housing for individuals impacted by family, domestic and sexual violence. This must include investment in long-term housing (covering at least a two-to-three-year period).
  • There is a need to deliver specialised and inclusive housing options, including for First Nations populations, LGBTQIA+ communities, and for individuals from migrant backgrounds
  • The Safe at Home program should be expanded, and evaluations embedded to determine effectiveness to enhance women’s safety and economic recovery from COVID-19.
  • Housing options for perpetrators removed from the home should be expanded to increase feasibility and safety of women and children remaining in the home.

Domestic and family violence is a key driver of women’s homelessness. Many stakeholders voiced concern that there was no section on housing in the previous National Plan and the desire for housing to be a key area of focus in the next National Plan.

The National Plan Consultation Reports are accessible here.

Landmark ruling on diplomatic immunity and domestic workers

On July 6, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, issued a landmark judgment on diplomatic immunity and human trafficking, in the case of Basfar v Wong [2022] UKSC 20. The judgment of the Court, delivered by a majority of 3-2, limits diplomatic immunity in cases involving human trafficking, servitude or other forms of modern slavery.

The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Siobhan Mullaly, noted that  “This is a hugely important judgment, and is likely to influence state practice and international law developments on diplomatic immunities and the protection of migrant domestic workers world-wide. Until now, the dominant interpretation of international law tilted the balance of power in favour of a serving diplomat, even in the face of egregious human rights violations. This has now changed.”

Read the full statement here

Read more about domestic servitude in Australia here

The Choice: Violence or Poverty

Domestic Violence is a key driver of homelessness for women, with many women forced to live in poverty when they leave a violent relationship. A new report by Anne Summers AO PhD, A report into domestic violence and its consequences in Australia today, provides disturbing information about the untenable choices women face in a violent relationship: Stay in a violent relationship or leave and live in poverty.

In 2016,

  • 275,000 Australian women had suffered physical and/or sexual violence from a current partner.  90,000 women wanted to leave, however they felt unable to do so, with a quarter of them saying the main reason was lack of money or financial support.
  • A further 82,000 temporarily separated but returned again. Fifteen per cent of them said that  they had no money or nowhere to go.
  • An estimated 185,700 women who had experienced violence by a previous partner were living as single mothers with children under 18 years of age.
    • 75% left behind property or assets
    • 60% were working, however their earnings were insufficient to support themselves and their children and they experienced considerable financial stress
    • 50% relied on government benefits as their main source of income
  • Single mothers relying on the Parenting Payment are forced to go onto JobSeeker when their youngest child turns 8. JobSeeker is the second lowest unemployment benefit in the OECD, after Greece.

In the recommendations, Anne argues that

  • the Parenting Payment must be available to all single parents until their child is 16 years or leaves high school
  • the Parenting Payment must be raised to match the age pension rate (currently 66% of the pension)

“Government policy, through the current National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010–2022,8 is ostensibly to encourage and support women to leave violent relationships. But government policy, through payments policy and other welfare measures, ensures that as many as half the women who choose to leave will end up in poverty. These two arms of government policy are in direct conflict with each other when it comes to tackling domestic violence. The government may not be able to immediately stop domestic violence, but it could stop poverty. It chooses not to.”

The full report can be accessed here.

This report was produced during a Paul Ramsay Foundation Fellowship undertaken while Dr Anne Summers was in residence as Professor at UTS TD School.

Summers, A. (2022). The Choice: Violence or Poverty. University of Technology Sydney.

On waiting for a social housing tenancy in Australia

A recently released Working Paper by Professor Hal Pawson and David Lilley from UNSW City Futures Research Centre, Managing Access to Social Housing in Australia: Unpacking policy frameworks and service provision outcomes, highlights some sobering statistics and information about social housing in Australia. A few points from the Executive Summary:

  • In 2020-2021, less than 30,000 applicants were granted a social housing tenancy in Australia, compared to 52,000 in 1991.
  • The national population is now 41% higher than in 1996, yet social housing has expanded by 3% over that period.
  • From 2018 – 2021, social housing wait list numbered grew by 16% to 164,000 households, and the annual number of greatest-need applications grew by 48%
  • The large cohort of applicants newly registering for social housing each year is accompanied by substantial numbers exiting lists without being allocated a social housing tenancy.
  • Some states have not changed income limits for social housing, effectively tightening the eligibility criteria over time.
  • Between the states there significant variations in waiting list eligibility.

To find out more about the policies and quantitative data associated with the management of social housing in Australia, the Working Paper can be downloaded here.

An article about the report in The Conversation can be read here.

Pawson, H. and Lilley, D. (2022) Managing Access to Social Housing in Australia: Unpacking policy frameworks and service provision outcomes; CFRC Working Paper; Sydney: UNSW City Futures Research Centre

Latest news from the Mercy Foundation

Our June update provides information about our work with the UN, recent grant recipients for both the Social Justice Small Grants program and the Grants to End Homelessness program, and a good news from recently funded projects. Read the update here.

Women Sleeping Rough

Women sleeping rough: The health, social and economic costs of homelessness is the first study to investigate the health outcomes of women sleeping rough and its associate costs. The self-report survey data was collected over a seven-year period in Australian cities by NGOs supporting those experiencing homelessness. This study provides one of the largest samples of women sleeping rough as well as experiencing other forms of homelessness.

Women were surveyed using the VI-SPDAT tool during Connections/Registry Weeks, whilst others were surveyed by homelessness services.

“The report compares the demographics, history and type of homelessness, physical and mental health conditions and service utilisation. This study not only demonstrates that women sleeping rough differ demographically to both men sleeping rough and women not sleeping rough but that they are at higher risk of poorer physical and mental health outcomes and higher levels violence and exploitation on the streets. Of concern is that the conditions experienced by women sleeping rough are among the leading causes of poor health and mortality.”

The study highlighted that women sleeping rough are particularly vulnerable to morbidity and early mortality. This in turn translated to high service utilisation. The development of housing and support strategies targeted to the needs of women sleeping rough will not only provide cost savings to the health sector, but more importantly, provide a safe and secure home and positive life outcomes for the women involved.

Box, E., Flatau, P., & Lester, L. (2022). Women sleeping rough: The health, social and economic costs of homelessness. Health & Social Care in the Community, 00, 1–16.

Mercy Youth Awards are Open!

The Mercy Youth Awards are now open! High School students across Australia are invited to participate in the awards. The topic is Caring for our Environment. Students are asked to create a visual representation, like a cartoon, artwork, collage or photo, that shows the everyday actions that you can take to help address climate change; students are also asked to answer a quiz on climate change.

Entries close on 5 August 2022.

Find out more about the Mercy Youth Awards.