ACOSS pushes for pollies to do more on housing crisis

THE dire need for more housing all over Australia has reached crisis point and the major political parties need to commit to do more, as the nation prepares for the election campaign.

That was the blunt message from the Australian Council of Social Services, which joined with several other national community groups in Canberra on Tuesday to push for more action on homelessness.

After a COAG Reform Council report that showed Australia was actually going backwards on key homelessness measures and an ACOSS report finding 70% of homeless services could not meet demand.

ACOSS deputy chief executive Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine said several key changes needed to be made, including upping the Newstart Allowance by $50 a week.

But she said that was only a small part of the overall picture, with a need for an additional investment into 50,000 extra incentives for affordable housing places.

Dr Boyd-Caine also said both major parties needed to commit to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to 2020, as it was due to expire in 2014.

Neither the new Minister for Housing, Julie Collins, nor her Opposition counterpart, Kevin Andrews, responded to requests for comment for this story.

However, Dr Boyd-Caine said she welcomed the appointment of Ms Collins to the role, after previously serving as Parliamentary Secretary on the same portfolio.

She said she also hoped the Coalition would also make a solid commitment to addressing homelessness.

ACOSS, along with St Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Anglicare, Homelessness Australia and several other service groups, all said the lack of affordable housing was the "common factor" driving Australians into poverty.

Dr Boyd-Caine said any organisation working with society's most vulnerable knew housing was "the greatest unmet need of their clients", saying the situation had become so critical "it's time to act".

The call marks the start of wider campaign for the community sector to push for solid election commitments from both parties to address housing affordability and homelessness.


Community Priorities:

  • Make the National Rental Affordability Scheme permanent and immediately provide 50,000 new incentives
  • Commit to an affordable housing growth fund
  • Lift the level of Commonwealth Rent Assistance and review its effectiveness
  • Make a serious commitment to address homelessness and, as part of this, increase funding for homelessness services to match unmet need
  • Sign a new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness

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