NO SIMPLE FIX: The solution to the current housing problem is a complex, multilayered one and deserves more than lip service.
NO SIMPLE FIX: The solution to the current housing problem is a complex, multilayered one and deserves more than lip service. bodnarchuk

Several factors that lead to homelessness

I'M NOT a commentator but...

This week, I lent a hand to an elderly relative to move house.

She had lived in her last place for more than 20 years and the past 12 months have been particularly stressful, after the landlord announced the intention to sell.

Thankfully, the most recent few weeks produced an affordable unit still close to family and her friend/support network, which didn't result in her having to move to Windorah.

As a family we can be grateful that she managed to find somewhere that allows her to retain her independence and friends at a price that doesn't mean she has to either sacrifice meals or medications.

Sadly, for some others, this isn't the case.

Finding affordable accommodation is, for them, a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

It is not a challenge, as some commentators would suggest, that the individual can be blamed for.

There are many factors that contribute to homelessness.

Mental illness, bad economic and employment situations, violent domestic environments etc all deserve more weight in the debate than some are prepared to give.

Most homeless are not homeless through personal choice.

The way the debate is being treated tends to suggest that some politicians are either in denial that we have a crisis or that it is partly their responsibility to solve it.

Over-inflated property values and high rents go hand in hand in producing a growing number of Australians for whom just making the weekly rent is becoming as unachievable as the Great Australian Dream; especially in the larger metropolitan areas.

The rather banal suggestion by some politicians that people should simply move to cheaper areas fails to consider the matters of high unemployment in the regions and the burden on regional infrastructure that continues to be neglected.

But I guess the world looks rather different if you live in the bubble of certain select Sydney postcodes.

However, as we saw during the mining boom, living outside the metro areas doesn't necessarily equate to lower property values and rents.

The extraordinary rents charged in some central Queensland towns might have been aimed at the cashed up miners but proved impossible for the local cafe employee, childcare worker or long-time tenant.

To have a roof over your head is a basic human right and one deserving better attention from our parliamentarians.

It requires a good deal better response than was recently seen in Melbourne, where that city council made it unlawful to sleep on the streets.

Moving the homeless on because you are acutely embarrassed about how it reflects on your "image" is not a solution.

It seems that in the past few years, state governments have also steadily pulled back on their commitment to affordable public housing.

This can be no better seen than the practice of selling off parcels of superfluous government property to developers instead of re-purposing the sites for affordable housing.

The solution to the current housing problem (whether you are talking about potential first home buyers or renters) is a complex, multi-layered one and deserves more than temporary simple fixes and lip service.

Political differences and shot-down thought bubbles concerning negative gearing, capital gains tax concessions and interest rates are yet to build one bit of affordable housing.

Any releases by government of additional lands must be done in a way which neither results in property being bought up by speculators or causes property values to drop due to gluts being created. You don't solve one problem by creating another.

Having said that, some rents being demanded due to the shortage in rental stocks are indecently high and nothing short of blatant profiteering.

The move by government away from being the supplier of affordable rental stock in favour of subsidy assistance for low-income earners and pensioners also seems a half-hearted attempt.

As rental increases occur usually on a yearly basis, it is interesting to note that the Government rent subsidy has not increased in at least the past six years.

Hence, more and more of a pensioner's basic payment must now be used to meet the difference.

Unless the pensioner moves and continues to move and, really, that's a bit too much to ask, isn't it?

There needs to be a shift in the priorities of all levels of government towards this problem, lest it become yet another example of reactive policy instead of proactive policy.

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