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Campaign for change kicks off to ensure ‘Everybody’s Home’

A collaborative new effort between affordable housing and anti-homelessness advocacy groups has been launched and is relying on ‘power in numbers’ to lobby for, and create change for, Australia’s growing number of homeless citizens.

The ‘Everybody’s Home’ campaign is calling for 500,000 more social and affordable rental homes to meet the nations identified shortfall (Source: Shutterstock)
The ‘Everybody’s Home’ campaign is calling for 500,000 more social and affordable rental homes to meet the nations identified shortfall (Source: Shutterstock)

The ‘Everybody’s Home’ project, launched on Tuesday 20 March at the National Press Club in Canberra, has brought together 26 campaign partners from across all areas of the homelessness and affordable housing sector to collectively call for change from government for a system that just “isn’t working for everyone”.

It calls for all community groups, support networks and individuals across the nation to join the campaign for a “better, fairer housing system” and outlines a five-step plan of “simple things” the Government can do to fix the growing issues relating to the nation’s housing system.

The campaign is calling for 500,000 more social and affordable rental homes to meet the nations identified shortfall, and the development of a plan to end homelessness by 2030, among other key targets.

The five-step action plan outlined by the Everybody’s Home project includes:

  1. Support for first home buyers
  2. Develop a National Housing Strategy
  3. A better deal for renters
  4. Immediate relief for Australians in chronic rental stress
  5. A plan to end homelessness by 2030

Mission Australia, known advocates for homeless Australians, are on board with the ‘Everybody’s Home’ initiative and the plan of action, with Chief Executive Officer James Toomey calling on everyone to “join together to address the issue” and see that these targets are met.

“The problems we face are not new, they’ve been recognised by politicians, community service organisations, Government providers and members of the public for a long time,” Mr Toomey says.

“The housing market is not delivering for those on the lowest incomes and the lack of appropriate social and affordable housing is contributing to the alarming rise in homelessness.

“Currently there are 200,000 people on social housing waiting lists across Australia and it is thought that up to half of ever growing tenants are spending more than a third of their income on rent, defined as rental stress, in the private rental housing market.

“This is why we all need to join together and demand a better system.”

Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) has joined the campaign alongside Mission Australia to advocate for the nations homeless older Australians, with National Development Worker Jeff Fiedler highlighting that they came on board in the hope that it would, “once and for all, lead to real change for real Australians”.

“We became involved because we need to see quite significant change in Government action on housing affordability,” Mr Fiedler explains.

“Our focus is on older people and we want to make sure issues affecting them are accounted for in this campaign because it is increasingly common to see Australians retiring with mortgages, using superannuation to pay for housing costs, and we are seeing a lot of older people on the Age Pension spending 70-80 percent of that income on rent which opens them up to a range of other problems.

“We know of lots of older people in these situations and we are encouraging them to raise their own voice and introduce to the Government the human face of these problems.”

The Federal Government’s Department of Social Services were contacted for comment on the issue and the launch of the ‘Everybody’s Home’ initiative, giving comment from a spokesperson on how it is an issue that lies with “state and territory Governments”.

“State and territory Governments are primarily responsible for the delivery of affordable housing and homelessness services as well as the regulation of the private rental market,” the Department’s Spokesperson says.

They also stated that the Commonwealth spends more than $6 billion annually on housing assistance and homelessness services every year, including around $4.5 billion annually in Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) which assists around 1.3 million individuals and families.

As at June 2017, they say 300,681 people aged 65 years or over received CRA, with the Department of Social Services saying an estimated 64 percent of these older Australians would be paying more than 30 percent of income on rent without this assistance.

The Government also announced a comprehensive Housing Affordability Plan in the 2017-18 Budget.

As part of this plan, the Government is working with state/territory governments to reach consensus on a new $1.5 billion National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) to commence from 1 July this year. The Commonwealth is seeking agreement from state/territory Governments that older Australians will be one of the homelessness priority groups under the new NHHA.

HAAG’s Mr Fiedler highlighted the need for more to be done by Government and says that collaborating with the large number of other organisations and groups on this initiative and drive for change is “fantastic”.

“For the first time in many years it has brought all of our organisations together all with the same message and campaigning as one,” he says.

“The fantastic thing about it is the large number and wide range of key housing and community organisations that are now coming under one very big umbrella with the same message to share and same need to see a huge injection of funding to build more affordable housing in Australia.

“It is a really important breakthrough developing this campaign - it’s showing that everyone has had enough.

“It’s showing that we are sick and tired of simply talking about homeless people on our streets due to a lack of affordable housing, that we are sick of getting the message out there without any impact on the Government.

“We need to get change - to have housing seen to be just as important as health education and income and we know that government won’t spend the money on this unless the momentum is there and front and centre with the public.”

Following the campaign’s launch, all campaign partners will be working together to build engagement and support for the campaign, as well as commencing the lobbying process as “one large coalition” getting Government to include these called for changes in their policy.

To join the ‘Everybody’s Home’ campaign, show your support or find out more, visit http://everybodyshome.com.au/

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