Homelessness services have described the federal government's failure to invest in social housing in this year's budget as 'devastating' and a 'lost opportunity'.
Agencies and housing experts had called for the federal government to invest in social housing to stimulate the construction industry, create jobs and increase housing options for people on low incomes.
Homelessness has more than doubled in greater Ballarat, Victoria, since the start of the pandemic and crisis accommodation has been stretched to its limit, according to Ballarat's main housing agency Uniting.
Uniting Vic.Tas chief executive Bronwyn Pike said she was pleased with the government's commitment to create new jobs, but she was concerned many people had been left behind and would fall into deeper disadvantage.
"Greater investment in addressing homelessness and building new social housing is a must so we can provide as many people as possible with shelter they need to weather the current social and economic storm," she said.
We cannot fathom why Australia still doesn't have a national plan to end homelessness.James Toomey, Mission Australia
Homelessness Australia chair Jenny Smith said many families would be stuck in homelessness for a long time without increases in social housing and reduced resources for homelessness services.
"Not only has the budget ignored the opportunity to build social housing as economic stimulus, it has revealed plans to slash a further $41.3 million from vital homelessness support in July," she said.
"Despite soaring demand, tonight's budget has put services in an impossible situation.
"Last year alone, services had to turn away 253 people every day because not enough housing or support was available, and cuts to services will increase the number of people in need who are turned away."
Government assistance for first-home buyers and loans to build affordable housing were at the centre of the budget's focus on housing and construction support.
The budget did reveal a $1 billion government increase of its guarantee for the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, that provides loans to registered community housing providers to support social housing supply.
The Community Housing Industry Association said this was welcome, but on its own was insufficient to drive substantial new social and affordable housing construction.
"While, this budget hasn't prioritised social housing, the need won't go away. Let's hope that come May 2021 social housing will get its chance," chief executive Wendy Hayhurst said.
Mission Australia chief executive James Toomey said he was concerned high levels of unemployment, the reduction in the COVID supplement rate and the huge debts in rent deferrals some people were accruing would lead to a spike in homelessness.
"Particularly given 2020's challenges, we cannot fathom why Australia still doesn't have a national plan to end homelessness," he said.
"Prioritising ending homelessness in Australia still isn't being taken seriously at a national level."
Ms Smith, who is also chief executive of Council to Homeless Persons, told The Courier on Monday she was hopeful the state government would prioritise social housing as stimulus, but the federal government needed to take the lead.