Housing availability and affordability is the biggest problem facing the nation’s community services sector, according to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).
The annual Australian Community Sector Survey of over 500 agencies found that a lack of affordable housing was having a major impact, particularly for people on low incomes.
“Across the board, all services overwhelmingly nominated this as the greatest need of clients coming to them for help,” said ACOSS deputy CEO Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine. “Nearly 70 per cent of housing and homeless services reported that they struggled to meet demand, with a five per cent increase in the number of people turned away.”
Chief executive of the Housing Industry Association (HIA) Graham Wolfe said the issue was due to a failure by successive state and federal governments to address the fundamental constrains to housing delivery.
“Residential construction is currently experiencing its longest trend decline in post-war history, which is being driven in part by the excessive and inefficient taxation on housing, a tight credit supply and state planning systems that constrain the timely and cost effective delivery of housing," he said.
“When there is a shortage of homes being built, this impacts on the rental market at all levels."
Mr Wolfe explained that families that would otherwise have been owner occupiers now had to compete for rental properties, putting pressure on those already in the rental market. Families that could no longer afford rental accommodation would subsequently have to move to a lower price point.
“At the end of this cascading effect is the people who are the most vulnerable, but they have nowhere else to go and this has a social and economic cost to the entire community,” said Mr Wolfe.
ACOSS met with national housing peak bodies and leading welfare agencies to call on politicians to make housing a top priority in the coming federal election.
"With welfare agencies overwhelmingly reporting that housing availability and affordability is the greatest unmet need of their clients, the situation has become critical and it's time to act," said Ms Boyd-Caine.
"Leading charities and national housing peak groups [yesterday] outlined considered proposals that would go some way to dealing with a crisis that is hurting so many people, yet barely mentioned in the election context. We want to see all-party support for immediate action.”