An additional 3,700 homeless people in NSW since 2020 is estimated to cost the NSW economy between $524.5 million and $2.5 billion over six years, according to a new report released today.
The report estimates that homelessness has increased by around 10 per cent in NSW since the start of the pandemic as more people seek assistance from specialist homelessness services.
In addition, the report suggests that 54,000 households have entered or experienced a worsening in housing stress since the start of the pandemic, which is expected to cost the NSW economy $322 million every year through lost productivity and workforce participation.
These are some of the shocking findings in the Housing Security chapter of Aftershock: Addressing the Economic and Social Costs of the Pandemic and Natural Disasters, a new research series into the impact of events of the past two and a half years on people in NSW.
The Impact Economic and Policy research has revealed just how stark the housing crisis has become, particularly for those in regional NSW.
The research has been commissioned by NCOSS, Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) NSW, Aboriginal Community Housing Industry Association (ACHIA), Homelessness NSW and other NSW peak organisations.
NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said these findings reinforce what most people in the social services sector are seeing, and that urgent action is needed.
“The past two years of major disruptions brought by fires, floods and the pandemic have exposed the underlying failures of housing policy in NSW and across Australia,” Ms Quilty said.
“It is a disgrace that in Australia, a place that was once considered the ‘Lucky Country’, we have soaring rates of housing stress and homelessness while cost of living pressures continue to mount.
“The issue is particularly dire in regional NSW, as the pandemic changed how many of us live and work, and city-dwellers moved to the regions to take advantage of flexible working approaches.”
“Too many people are in the midst of a housing crisis. Increases in the cost of rental housing across NSW are accelerating and impacting the most on low-income households,” CHIA NSW CEO, Mark Degotardi said.
“The lack of housing is an economic and social issue. We need more affordable rental housing for key workers and others who drive our local economies, and more social housing for the most vulnerable in our community.
“The time for action is now. Community housing providers have an important role in increasing affordable rental housing supply, but we need the NSW Government to step up with us and confront the housing crisis,” said Mr Degotardi.
"Families living in tent communities, inside cars or seeking overstretched services are proof that homelessness in NSW is getting worse,” Homelessness NSW CEO, Trina Jones said.
“Recent natural disasters and ongoing social and economic impacts of COVID-19 have left people across the state in crisis and more families are at risk of becoming homeless as inflation continues to soar and landlords raise rents in the cities and regions.
“The situation is bleak for those experiencing homelessness today, but we want to remind governments, at all levels, and the public that the solution remains the same – we cannot solve homelessness without more housing.”
“Aboriginal families, their communities and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations banded together to help one another through the successive crises experienced across NSW. Assistance through public housing, community housing, specialist homelessness services and other support services continue to play catch up,” ACHIA CEO, Lisa Sampson said.
“Housing pipeline development and support needs to be channelled through Aboriginal community-controlled grassroots organisations. Empowerment requires meaningful contribution by all levels of government, investment in Aboriginal-led housing development utilising land assets that many communities themselves own and want to leverage along with the simultaneous dismantling of deeply embedded systemic barriers.”
The report recommends the NSW Government should progress the following reforms as a matter of urgency:
• Build an additional 5,000 social housing units annually
• Implement stamp duty reform to improve the efficiency of the housing market
• Introduce tenancy reform to provide renters greater protections and security
• Ensure the National Housing Plan commits to an increase in rental assistance and delivers a social housing pipeline so every Australian has somewhere to call home.
Other findings covered in the report include:
• The number of low-income households in regional NSW in extreme housing stress (i.e. paying more than half of their income on rent) has also increased by 52 per cent since the start of 2020.
• Households privately renting are more than four times as likely to be in housing stress compared to home owners, with almost two-thirds low-income private rental households in housing stress.
• Rental vacancy rates have fallen dramatically between February 2020 and June 2022:
o Coffs Harbour: 72 per cent fall
o Albury: 69 per cent fall
o Riverina: 68 per cent fall
o New England: 68 per cent fall
o South Coast: 62 per cent fall
• The Central West region experienced the largest rental price increase in NSW, rising 30 per cent since March 2020.
• There is an overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experiencing homelessness and seeking assistance with housing. Almost 30 per cent of clients of specialist homelessness services in NSW are Aboriginal, compared to representing 3.4 per cent of the overall population.
For more information, and to read a copy of the report, visit www.ncoss.org.au
Media contact: Nick Trainor (NCOSS) 0407 078 138