Demand for homelessness services has soared with more than half of all low-income renters facing rental stress, a new report shows, prompting warnings about the looming cuts to the jobseeker payment, The Guardian reports.
The Productivity Commission’s report on government services found no progress has been made in improving access to homelessness support or rental stress in the past decade.
Rental stress – defined as spending more than 30% of gross income on rent – was affecting 50.2% of low-income households in the private rental market. That figure is “largely unchanged over the past 10 years”, the report said.
Even with commonwealth rental assistance, many families continued to struggle. About 29% of those who were receiving the payment were still experiencing rental stress, the report found.
The report also found there had been a long-term reduction in public housing stock.
Public housing dwellings decreased from 331,371 in 2011 to 300,403 in 2020, though the report noted the government was getting better at allocating homes to those in greatest need.
The loss of public housing coincided with an increase in the use of community housing – long-term rentals provided by not-for-profit organisations – which almost doubled over the decade.
At the same time, the number of Australians seeking help from specialist homelessness services has increased significantly.
About 290,500 Australians were helped by homelessness services last financial year, up from 279,196 four years earlier.
The level of unmet demand for homelessness services also remains at near-record highs. Last financial year, a third of those who needed accommodation were unable to receive it, up from 28.7% in 2015-16.
Homelessness charities say the report is unsurprising but again shows the urgent need for “repair and investment” in Australia’s housing system.
Looming cuts to the boosted jobseeker payment were also worrying support services.