The News on Housing Crisis:
War of words breaks out following new report into Queensland’s housing crisis

The Queensland and federal governments are trading blows over the state’s housing after another report on the crisis.

A new report from the Queensland Council of Social Services (Qcoss) says more than 50,000 households are currently on the waiting list for social housing.

Qcoss warns the list could grow by 10,000 if the federal government proceeds with plans to scrap the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

“Women and children are returning to domestic violence situations and living in cars with newborns because there is nowhere else to go,” Qcoss chief executive Amy McVeigh said.

“We need more homes.”

The prime minister said the main problem was the Queensland government’s failure to fulfill its home-building targets and release land for more social and affordable housing.

“I mean the best way to get more houses is to build more houses, and so I would encourage the planning authorities [to] work closely with the local community to ensure they get those decisions right,” Morrison said.

“But we need more houses built, the more houses there are, the less pressure there is on housing prices.

Twofold crisis: regional Australia housing shortage compounding poor mental health

‘If something doesn’t change, we are going to see single mum’s sleeping under bridges’, one lawyer says

The housing crisis and mental health crisis are converging in regional Australia as rental vacancy rates in some regions fall below 1% with city people on the move, rentals converting to Airbnb, or owners cashing in on high property prices.

Regional towns have experienced a significant reduction in available properties and rental affordability, particularly since the onset of the pandemic.

While the Sydney CBD currently has a vacancy rate above 7% and Melbourne CBD above 5%, the vacancy rates across regional Australia, including regional Queensland, the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, and southwest WA, are less than 1%, SQM Research has shown.

Louis Christopher, managing director of SQM, said this had been accompanied by a dramatic increase in rental and housing prices over the past 12 months with areas such as the NSW North Coast, seeing a combined rental price increase of 18.6%.

“That’s a huge rent increase. On our series we’ve never recorded such an acceleration in rent in regional Australia,” Christopher said.

Ellen Jones, a solicitor in the NSW town of Orange said like all regional centres, her hometown had a divide between rich and poor but the housing demand for both sales and rentals had increased the divide markedly.

“This used to be a rural backwater that people couldn’t wait to get out of,” she said.

“Now it’s the fashionable place to be, with Sydney people visiting on two-degree days when it’s sleeting, saying ‘isn’t it lovely and wintery’, which is excellent for businesses and we have a younger population coming in.”

Jones’s legal practice mainly deals with conveyancing and family law and housing cuts across both of those areas.

She has had clients buy $450,000 houses four years ago that are now selling for $1.1m and the demand is causing a boom in renovations. Low-income housing options that were released for $150,000 are now $450,000, a price that those on lower incomes or the unemployed cannot afford.

At the same time, she deals with separating couples who are forced to stay under the same roof with children because one partner cannot get rental accommodation. Jones described the immediate separation phase as the most dangerous period for women and “really bad for children”.

“If something doesn’t change, we are going to see single mothers sleeping under bridges. I’ve seen people with children and, even more so if they have pets, who cannot get rental accommodation,” said Jones.

“If the market is tight, owners want to offer properties to singles or professional couples and people are paying over the market rentals.”

Australia’s house price boom: what’s happening and how can it be brought under control?

The NSW government announced a $500m this week for 75 extra refuges for women and children, effectively doubling the number of refuges, as part of a Covid economic recovery strategy.

The NSW minister for women, Bronnie Taylor, said 40% of people accessing specialist homelessness services had experienced domestic abuse.

The Queensland Alliance for Mental Health, the state’s peak body for community mental health said the situation was “pushing people experiencing mental distress into homelessness”.

QAMH has also called for a boost for social housing with integrated mental health support from the Queensland government.

The alliance gives Mackay, Townsville, and Rockhampton as just three examples of where the injection of recent state funding into public housing is grossly insufficient to meet community needs.

Karen Bonham, a community development coordinator at the not-for-profit Mackay community organization, Madec, said “Anyone with disadvantage, even those on moderate incomes, just don’t have a chance.”

“There is a visible increase in the number of people who are having to find alternative sleeping arrangements, in cars in car parks, and that includes young families with children, in the local parks, behind our town hall, anywhere that’s vacant, out of the weather,” Bonham said.