Newcastle homelessness service calling on NSW Government to act

A Newcastle homelessness service is calling on parliament to act with a stimulus package amid growing pressure from COVID-19.

Nova for Women and Children are warning members of parliament to act as the pressure grows on local communities to keep up with demand on affordable housing amid the pandemic.

Kelly Hansen, CEO of Nova for Women and Children said due to the migration of people from Sydney as a consequence of the pandemic, almost all regional areas have seen rental vacancy rates plummet, while rents skyrocket, with no sign of conditions easing.

“Homelessness services continue to support those must vulnerable, but too often their clients are held back by the lack of available and affordable housing,”

“We are on the frontline day in and out, providing to support to individuals and families who are for the first time ever at risk of homelessness due to low incomes and an unaffordable rental market. Last year we saw 1583 clients, which is 51% more than we are funded to work with,” said Kelly Hansen.

“In our community it is not unusual to see up to 50 people/families viewing properties, and with an already limited vacancy rate there simply just isn’t enough affordable housing out there.”

“The inaction on social housing, has created waiting lists that can be as long as a decade and this is simply not good enough. The increase in demand for housing is placing people and families extremely vulnerable and at risk. Immediate action is required to prevent people and families cycling into homelessness.”

“We need our local members to not just understand the need out here, when people are on the brink, but to actually take steps to address it, and urgently,” she said.

Nova said that there is economic modelling which has demonstrated that a stimulus package with a focus on acquiring social housing now while rolling out a strategy to build more social housing is a ‘Win-Win’ for the NSW government. It details both the stimulus to the residential construction sector and household wealth, as well as long term benefits due to improved housing security, health and economic participation.

“To meet the level of need, we’re asking our members of parliament to fight for acquisition of existing housing stock to convert into social housing, to meet need now and commit to building an additional 5,000 units of social and affordable housing per year, for the next 10 years,” said Kelly Hansen.

The investment would cost $1.88 billion in 2020-21 – a small proportion of the actual and estimated windfall in NSW government coffers from the private housing boom – and support 18,000 construction jobs across NSW.

Image credit: Nova for Women and Children Facebook page