Report shines light on homelessness in Central Highlands04/12/2019
There is an urgent need for affordable, long-term rental housing in the Central Highlands, according to a new report released today by the Central Highlands Regional Partnership.
The Partnership heard, at each of its Regional Assemblies over the past three years, that the Central Highlands community wanted a better understanding of the extent of homelessness in the region, plus action to address the issue.
The new report, which uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ definition of homelessness which includes rough sleeping, temporary and inappropriate housing, outlines the extent of homelessness in the region, where it is concentrated, the effect of age on the type of homelessness experienced, and the causes of homelessness.
It finds that incidences of homelessness in the region are increasing with, for example, in Ballarat, where the majority of housing services are located, a rapid rise in the number of requests for housing support since 2015/16.
The report finds a mismatch between the type of housing available in Central Highlands and the housing needed. It describes a need for more of all types of housing, but most urgently needed is affordable long-term rentals.
With a recent vacancy rate in Ballarat of 0.7 per cent for rental properties, the report describes an unprecedented increase in competition to rent.
It describes a bottleneck where tenants of short-term crisis and transitional housing cannot find affordable private rental housing and must wait for public or community housing to become available. Hence, people eligible for short term crisis housing are not able to access that.
It also describes a large shortage of one-bedroom dwellings to accommodate single people who make up the largest group of people experiencing homelessness in the region.
The report finds that regional and rural areas have particular factors that can exacerbate homelessness. This includes a lack of housing options compared to metropolitan centres. It finds that affordable housing is often in locations that require a person to have their own transport, making that housing either unsuitable or leading to social isolation. There is also more limited access to specialist services which is exacerbated by limited public transport options.
“We heard from our community that people in the Central Highlands were really worried about homelessness and how housing insecurity affects people in the region,” says George Fong, Chair of the Central Highlands Regional Partnership.
“This report outlines the scale and the nature of the problem in Central Highlands; and explains the specific impacts of homelessness in rural and regional communities.
“We hope the community finds this report useful in its ongoing discussions about how best the region can respond to homelessness – as community members, providers and government. Afterall, homelessness is a community issue. It requires a whole-of-community response.”
“We have a highly developed service sector which is working hard and trying to integrate its responses to those in greatest need. This report however, highlights that until we can fix the downstream issues of housing supply, we will continue to have more need than we have ability to respond,” says Geoff Sharp, Homelessness Lead for the Central Highlands Regional Partnership.
“This report makes clear that we can take a substantial portion of people out of the homelessness service response area if we can simply find adequate, low-cost housing.”