The Lord Mayors from four of Australia’s largest capital cities have this week pleaded with the prime minister and leader of the opposition to take urgent action on the nation’s homelessness and housing affordability crisis.
Sally Capp, Anna Reynolds, Clover Moore, and Sandy Verschoor — the Lord Mayors of Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, and Adelaide, respectively — launched their call for action by demanding increased funding, the creation of a national housing plan, and the appointment of a Homelessness and Housing Minister.
"Rough sleeping on our city streets is in danger of becoming entrenched,” Capp stated in a media release. “Our cities need co-ordinated action, with federal and state governments working closely to provide a pathway out of homelessness into long-term, affordable housing.”
The mayors’ further urged the leaders to commit to implementing additional social housing units, placing the homelessness topic at the forefront of the next Council of Australian Governments meeting, and undertaking a fastidious evaluation into Australia’s welfare policies.
This week @lordmayormelb met with other capital city Lord Mayors to come up with a joint plan on how to address the issue of homelessness and ensure the Federal Government puts it on the national agenda. pic.twitter.com/WRxId199GK— City of Melbourne (@cityofmelbourne) May 3, 2019
The calls come in response to a recent Anglicare report which revealed not one of the current 69,000 rental listings across major cities classified as affordable for an individual receiving government-issued income support payments like Newstart or the Youth Allowance.
The report coincides with the most recent Australian census data from 2016.
The data shows there were 116,427 people living with homelessness on Census night, up from 102,439 in 2011. The homelessness rate across the major Australian cities rose by 14% in Melbourne, 21% in Hobart, 48% in Sydney, and 14% in Adelaide.
Tony Clark, the founder of national charity Backpack Bed for Homeless, told The Project Australia he concurred with the Lord Mayors’ call for the federal government to take charge on the issue. For too long, he stated, the Australian government has been “passing the buck” to overwhelmed Australian states and territories.
"When we talk to prime ministers and MPs their ears are closed, they keep passing the buck to state governments,” he stated. “Until we have a national approach held by the leaders of our country, we’re going to continue to have Australians living on the street.”
In the lead-up to the federal election on May 18, the current Liberal government has already pledged $1.5 billion to homelessness funding each year under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.
The opposition Labor government has promised to implement a national homelessness reduction plan, build 250,000 new affordable rental homes over ten years, invest $88 million over two years for a new Safe Housing Fund, and reinstate a Minister for Housing and Homelessness.