The Australian government responded quickly and effectively to the impending disaster of COVID, preventing people from falling into homelessness and unemployment through a range of measures including the creation of JobKeeper and the addition of a Coronavirus supplement to Newstart, now known as JobSeeker. We were hopeful that the 2020/21 budget would deliver permanent reductions to poverty and increased access to housing, by making the new JobSeeker benefit permanent and investing in social and affordable housing. It was very disappointing and concerning that neither of these measures were adopted, rather the budget relies on incentives and subsidies to encourage business investment to drive the economy.
Many economists recommended an investment in social housing to boost the economy. The result would be job creation with the added bonus of delivering an enormous social benefit – providing safe and secure housing for families trying to get by on a low income, women and children escaping domestic violence, older women living on a low, fixed income in the expensive rental market and people at risk of homelessness.
We welcome the subsidies to encourage employers to employ young people currently out of work, however there is a great risk that this will come at the cost of older workers who already face barriers of ageism in finding employment.
The increase in funding to NHFIC will enable another 2,500 affordable homes to be constructed. However, the need is so much greater. AHURI estimates that there is a shortfall of around 431,000 social housing dwellings across Australia. There are currently 148,520 households on the public housing waiting list.
We are concerned that funding for the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement was reduced. It is likely that the demand for homelessness services will increase as a result of a weak economy that’s likely to be further hit by increasing unemployment.
As a result of the pandemic, people seeking asylum in our community have been heavily impacted by unemployment and lack of income support, with services reporting a 300% increase in demand. The budget reduced support for this group from $52.6 million to $19.6 million, which will further exacerbate the burden carried by these families and individuals, forcing many into homelessness and destitution.
What is needed now:
- A large scale investment in social and affordable housing at a rate of 30,000 dwellings per year as per the SHARP program
- A permanent increase to JobSeeker to a level above the poverty line, defined as $480 – $500 per week for a single person without children.
- Subsidies or incentives aimed at encouraging the employment of older women
- Access to the special benefit supplement for the most vulnerable people seeking asylum
What you can do – Add your voice to these campaigns
Raise the JobSeeker payment for good: Raise the Rate
Ensure everybody has a safe and affordable home: Everybody’s Home