MEDIA RELEASE: North Coast organisations say it’s time for action as region declared national housing blackspot

News | May 15, 2019

Housing and homelessness services as well as other organisations on the North Coast and Northern Rivers today called for urgent action to address the rental housing crisis, as new analysis shows the area is one of three major national black-spots for rental stress.

Organisations from across the region have signed an open letter calling on every local candidate inSaturday’s Federal election to support policies that will address the situation on the north coast.

The plea just days out from the election is prompted by a string of reports in recent weeks that show the housing situation for local families is at crisis point. It also follows the Affordable Housing Summit hosted by Byron Bay Council on Friday as well as the Lismore event Thursday Night Live! “Livingwithout homes – what can we do about the regions housing crisis?” held this week.

Figures for housing on the Northern Rivers show:

  • Rates of rental stress in the Federal electorate of Richmond are the third highest in Australia, with Page ranked as the eighth worst.
  • In Richmond 43% of renting households – or 7,390 household – are in rental stress, with 39% of renters in Page – or 6,578 households – in rental stress.
  • Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot shows NO properties affordable for people on Newstart, Youth Allowance or single parents, with very few affordable even for fulltime workers earning the minimum wage.
  • Homelessness is continuing to increase – with more than 1,300 people homeless in the electorates of Richmond and Page alone.
  • The average rental vacancy rate in the Northern Rivers in 2019 was 1.2% – the second lowest in NSW.
  • The area has a current shortfall of 6,500 social housing properties and 3,500 affordable rental homes according to AHURI and the University of NSW.

Social Futures CEO Tony Davies said housing has been missing as an issue for local candidates despite the scale of the issue for local voters.

“People want real, affordable housing options because our region is at crisis point,” Mr Davies said.

“Safe, affordable housing is more than just home, it’s a platform that supports personal safety, employment opportunity and so many other social factors that regional Australians deserve.”

“We need our politicians to step up and show the Australian public that they are taking action on thehousing crisis.”

North Coast Community Housing CEO and CHIA NSW Chair John McKenna said any new government must make policies that generate investment in more social affordable housing in the region a priority.

“It’s clear that we need more social and affordable housing on the Northern Rivers, particularly in our centres, where people are really struggling to find affordable rentals close to where there are jobs,” MrMcKenna said

“Our local councils are working to address the issue but we need Federal and state governments to invest in our region and deliver the social and affordable housing we desperately need here in theNorthern Rivers.”

Spokesperson for national Everybody’s Home housing campaign Kate Colvin said rental stress stretches right along the North Coast from Taree up to the Tweed – placing the NSW North Coast just behind Western Sydney as the region with the highest rates of rental stress in Australia.

“Underinvestment in social housing, increasing rents and low wage growth mean that low income earners, and middle-income earners are struggling throughout the North Coast and Northern Rivers,”Ms Colvin said.

“The huge increases in house prices have really locked many people out of home ownership, and those who are renting are really doing it tough, with a real disconnect between incomes and rents in the area.

“Housing is the biggest single cost of living experienced by almost all Australian households, and whenyou are earning a minimum or casual wage, are looking for work or are surviving on government support such as the Aged or Disability Pension, it means you do need to make a choice between essentials such as food or petrol and paying the rent.”

Local organisations who have joined Everybody’s Home campaign are calling for the government to:

  1. Develop a national strategy to provide the national shortfall of 500,000 social and affordable homes;
  2. Prioritise home buyers over investors by resetting the tax system;
  3. Ensure a better deal for renters;
  4. Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance to provide immediate relief for renters in chronic

    rental stress;

  5. Support a national plan to end homelessness by 2030.

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