Study welcome, but action on homelessness needed now – WA Senator
Media Release – Thursday January 13th, 2011.
The Australian Greens have welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of a study into the causes of homelessness, and urged decisive action in the meantime to provide practical solutions to the crisis.
The Greens housing spokesperson, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, said the problem of homelessness goes beyond the most dire and visible cases – those people forced to live on the streets – also affecting large numbers of Australians forced to live in vehicles or couch surf on the goodwill of family or friends.
“Today the Government pledged five million dollars for a two-year study into homelessness, to better target the five billion they intend to spend on solutions. Some of that five billion can be used now on a Convert To Rent initiative that would do a lot to shorten our public housing waiting lists,” said Senator Ludlam. “Our plan will provide financial assistance to property owners to help convert unused space into rental units to provide affordable housing to low-income households. House prices are stagnant and have been for a while. The owners of unused properties would find incentives to convert to rent particularly attractive now.”
Rental affordability has reached crisis point in Australia. In 2010 the National Housing Supply Council identified a gap of 493,000 affordable and available rental properties across Australia. However, in Perth alone almost 50,000 residential properties are vacant while 25,000 households are on the public housing waiting list.
“In 2006, there were over 167,000 unoccupied buildings, residential and commercial, just in Melbourne and Sydney. Convert To Rent will encourage owners to provide dwellings to people on low-moderate incomes, and set rents accordingly. This will greatly increase the amount of affordable housing available,” said Senator Ludlam.
The financial assistance offered by the program is a fully forgivable loan to a maximum of $21,000 which does not have to be repaid if the owner adheres to the conditions of the program. The property needs to be made suitable for living and rented out to means-tested low-medium income tenants at no more than 75 percent of the market rent. An additional $5000 can be allocated for buildings that are modified for people with a disability.
Media Contact – Giovanni Torre 0