On 3 March Homelessness NSW held an online forum with over 50 services from across the state to discuss the current parlous housing situation in regional and rural areas, the impact of the pandemic and to workshop possible solutions. What was clear was that the housing/homelessness situation is getting worse quickly largely driven by impacts of the pandemic, and cuts to jobkeeper and jobseeker would accentuate the crisis.
One of the pluses was the feeling of oneness from all the participants. The issues around lack of supply of housing people can afford, limited access to Temporary Accommodation (TA) and stress levels of staff were common for all. Among the most prevalent comments were that staff felt unable to do their job as they know it should be done due to the housing affordability crisis.
There were stories of non-existent rental vacancy rates, rental auctions, increased numbers of people fronting homelessness services, and services losing valued staff who are exhausted from the last 12 months.
Everyone agreed that investment in social housing by the Federal and State governments was the long-term answer but acknowledged that this is unlikely in current circumstances. With that in mind short and medium solutions were discussed.
Temporary Accommodation – there was agreement that far greater flexibility was required, including abolishing the rental diary. Expecting clients to complete a rental diary when there is no real possibility of them obtaining a property was deemed punitive and time wasting.
Temporary Accommodation – Homelessness NSW to continue to press the NSW Government for greater funding for TA.
Rent choice – there was agreement that a product that works with a local community and is provided for all those eligible for social housing should be investigated, but that it needs to be deeper and longer than existing products.
Local government– Homelessness NSW to increase working with local councils developing information to inform communities of the need to address this crisis.
Inclusionary zoning – lobby NSW Government and local councils to a meaningful level of inclusionary zoning. This can provide some relief for affordable housing.
Lobbying – Services and Homelessness NSW to continue to meet with State and Federal MPs to inform them of the situation and possible solutions.
Meanwhile use – Services to work with local developers and councils to try to increase the number of properties used for housing while DAs etc are occurring.
Homelessness NSW has already begun following these issues up with DCJ and provided examples of where clients in unsafe circumstances were unable to access Temporary Accommodation.
DCJ has emphasised that this should not be occurring and that if a client is at risk and being refused Temporary Accommodation then services should contact: Grace Borsellino, A/Link2Home Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org or M: 0475978820. However, please do not contact Grace unless it is an urgent issue.