Homeless crisis: high rents hit families

From the Sydney Morning Herald: more news about our housing shortage:

Increasing numbers of Sydney families are becoming homeless due to rising rents and lack of public housing in what some services say is the worst affordability crisis in 15 years.

“Finding accommodation for families these last two years has been a nightmare,” said Lisa Nero, the welfare worker at a Pendle Hill crisis centre run by the Churches of Christ.

As well, it has become much harder to get homeless families access to Department of Housing priority accommodation.

The problem with priority accommodation seems partly due to the demand-side pressures:

“Once we would start looking for a property eight weeks before a family was due to leave; now it’s taking us close to six months and most of that is luck,” said the manager, Natasha Tan.

The St Vincent de Paul Society said in a recent report the pressure on its homeless services had never been greater. “And one of the chief causes is the parlous state of the private rental market,” it said.

Although there was also this, very odd, piece of information:

…the Independent Commission Against Corruption was investigating whether Department of Housing homes that should have gone to needy families were given to criminals who paid bribes to bureaucrats. The houses were allegedly used for drug dealing or manufacturing.

As near as I can tell this applies to one official in Liverpool – so it’s probably of more use to Kevin Rudd for the purposes of further embarassment of the Prime Minister than explaining the shortage.

Land releases are still being thrown around in some papers as the principle cause. Given the latest figures out of the US and the ongoing decline in new housing, I figure on this being less of a problem even for those arguments. Amongst other things, unless the government is going to build the houses themselves and give them to poor single parents, I don’t see it properly helping. The housing shortage is easiliy good enough that the market will tack up any new capacity without much of a drop in prices/rents.

One thing, though. The article mentions a couple of examplar rents scattered around Sydney, but for flats, rather than houses. Sifting through the latest Rent and Sales Report, houses are cheaper:

Rent and Sales table

Rent and Sales graph

Which can make sense if apartments are going up near amenities – possibly meaning the families in the SMH article are faced with only apartment rents, anyway (they are also easier to maintain, and one in straightened circumstances is probably more discriminated against in the housing rental market vs. apartments).

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