Australia is facing a social housing timebomb, with a potential shortfall of up to 200,000 homes by 2031, according to a new report from Compass Housing Services.
The report found state governments have limited capacity to house the people on their respective waiting lists and no capacity to cater for future demand.
Report lead-author Professor David Adamson said despite good intentions the states had lost control of the issue and the problem was now too big for them to handle with 196,000 new social housing units needed by 2031.
“There are approximately 169,000 households on social housing waiting lists across Australia and under the current system most of them will never be allocated a property,” he said.
“Over the next decade the states and territories are planning to build just 66,000 social housing properties. Even if they hit their targets, they will have undershot the existing level of demand by 60 per cent, or more than 100,000 homes.
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“If you include the additional demand from population growth over the period in question the shortfall increases to more than 196,000 homes.”
Report co-author Martin Kennedy said the problems facing the social housing system were part of a broader housing crisis that had been building for 30 years.
“Home ownership rates have collapsed, the share of renters in housing stress is increasing and social housing waiting lists are out of control,” he said. “The Commonwealth insists social housing is a state responsibility, but that arrangement isn’t working.”
“If we keep expecting the states to fix a problem that is clearly beyond them, an increasing proportion of the population will experience socially damaging levels of inequality and financial hardship.
Everybody’s Home national spokesperson, Kate Colvin, said federal intervention was urgent.
“The federal-state blame game is arid and gets us nowhere. A ballooning number of Australians on low and middle incomes simply cannot compete for housing in the booming private sales and rental market.
“We need a breakthrough in co-operation quickly, otherwise Australia will confront a social catastrophe. State governments simply do not have the fiscal firepower to build enough social housing. Unless the Federal Government steps up, homelessness services and other health and welfare services will be overwhelmed.”