The federal government is being urged to make social housing a priority in the upcoming budget under a plan that would benefit women fleeing violence and increase job prospects for local economies.
The dark side of Australia's property price "boom" is how it has exacerbated the shortfall in social housing, warns a national advocacy campaign to end homelessness.
With rents rising again and moratoriums on evictions coming to an end, Kate Colvin from Everybody's Home says a 430,000-home social housing shortfall means there are fewer options for people who are squeezed out of the rental market.
Homelessness is projected to rise 9 per cent, and housing stress by 24 per cent, as government stimulus support winds back.
"Only the federal government has the fiscal firepower to really make a dent in that housing problem," Ms Colvin says.
The campaign has pitched a proposal to the federal government for shovel-ready social housing projects that could deliver 12,500 new homes and 18,000 jobs each year over the next four years as a post-pandemic recovery project.
The omission of social housing investment in last year's budget was seen as a mistake by 84 per cent of leading economists and senior housing market specialists, according to a recent survey published the University of NSW's City Futures Research Centre.
"Economists agree that the government should have invested in social housing as stimulus, partly because [of] the construction activity - it just has to be done with domestic labour," Ms Colvin says. "So it's great for stimulating the economy, obviously - they are homes that wouldn't have been built otherwise."
If a joint federal, state and territory government plan invested $7.7 billion to construct the homes, modelling by SGS Economics and Planning estimates that on average between 15,500 and 18,000 jobs per year would be supported, triggering a broader economic expansion of $18.2 billion in total over the four years of construction.
Economists have also called for a more women-focused federal budget on May 11. Last year's budget saw the economic security of women fall further than men during the first year of the pandemic.
"The fastest-growing group of people experiencing homelessness is older women - often it's about being on JobSeeker for many years and their savings are gone," Ms Colvin said. "We get so used to the fact that it's hard to get social housing, that the enormity of how awful that is gets lost."
The new women's safety and economic security cabinet task force might also look at how women and children fleeing family violence are the largest group in need of emergency and ongoing social housing.
Last year around 54,000 women and girls experiencing family violence came to homelessness services needing accommodation, but one-third were unable to be housed.
One in seven who sought social housing were placed in medium- or long-term accommodation. Half received short-term accommodation.
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