The Great Australian Shame?
The face of the Australian housing crisis is often seen as an individual, currently without a home, visible but ignored on the streets of our capital cities across Australia.
But the impact of unstable housing and the lack of affordable homes, runs much deeper than this and affects many more people than we would think.
The definition of homelessness by the Australian Bureau of Statistics states:
‘when a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:
- is in a dwelling that is inadequate; or
- has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
- does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations.
The ABS definition of homelessness is informed by an understanding of homelessness as ‘home’lessness, not ‘roof’lessness.’
We know that not having a place to call home, impacts not only our ability to maintain connection to community, family and friends, but also reduces our physical, emotional, financial and mental health.
Pre Covid-19 housing at all ends of the spectrum, from crisis accommodation to home ownership, came with their own issues and failures. These impacts and challenges have increased throughout the duration of the pandemic, and will continue to escalate as more and more people have their income reduced, savings diminished and futures impacted.
In particular our younger cohort, who were already struggling to enter the housing market due to systemic challenges are likely to face further struggles to maintain secure accommodation due to a loss of income and reduced savings.
Prior to the pandemic, crisis accommodation was limited in number, with strict criterion placed on potential residents from age and gender to family make up and relationship status. With an increase in street present individuals caused by the reduction in employment there is going to further stretch to these resources. A failure to act quickly at this crisis stage can result in an individual facing a much more difficult transition out of homelessness. For young people left without income due to Covid-19 it is possible that they will enter the homeless cycle if they are without family or friends to support them.
Private rental accommodation is expensive and unstable, with tenants often being restricted to six and 12 month lease agreements and frequent rental increases. The Anglicare Rental Affordable Snapshot 2019 found that of 69,485 private rentals, only 2% were affordable to a single person on the minimum wage. This was reduced to 0% when looking for properties affordable to a single person on New Start Allowance.
For young people aged 18-35, who have little or no capability of owning their own home in the traditional sense, the volatile private rental market becomes their only housing option. This becomes even more precarious when a persons’ income is also unstable (casual or zero hour contracts) or part time (working to enable further study) or has been significantly impacted by the pandemic (hospitality and retail positions). Whilst government initiatives are being implemented at the moment to minimise the risk to renters, the long term impact on a young persons ability to secure an affordable private rental has diminished because of the pandemic.
For individuals seeking long term stable housing options, home ownership is the strongest and safest option- however Australia already has the 2nd most expensive housing market in the world and prior to Covid-19 only 45% of individuals under the age of 35 owned their own home. The ability to enter the home ownership market is going to be further impacted, with young people under 35 facing significant financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic with a reduction in not only their current income, but also any savings they had achieved for a house deposit.
The importance of viewing the housing market as a whole of continuum is that each sector of the market needs to create sustainable change to positively impact the housing choices of young people in Australia.
Over the past 12-24 months significant inroads have been made in some areas of the market, with new, innovative platforms being created within the #proptech space. These models take existing restrictions and pivot them to create sustainable, affordable and achievable housing choices.
In the private rental market ‘The Home hub’ has created an online platform that provides a social response to private rental accommodation.
‘Home Hub is Western Australia’s first advertising service and one-stop hub for safe, secure and affordable homes – connecting people who need a safe, secure and affordable place to call home with the homes that are currently available to choose from.
We aren’t just talking about homelessness, in fact, over 60,000 households in WA are doing it tough…’
In the shared housing space, #coliving developments are being created to replace tired and expensive HMO properties (House of Multiple Occupation), pivoting the shared rental space into a creation of community, allowing individuals to benefit from an affordable place to stay, alongside shared amenities and collective outcomes.
Since 2019, the co-ownership space in Australia has been growing with websites like Mortgage Mates (www.mortgagemates.com.au) being developed to enable individuals to co-own a home together. By matching two or more users to own a property, the ability to enter the housing market is increased, as the deposit and income amount required are reduced by half. By owning a property with another person, individuals are able to buy in the location they want to live in, not in the place they can afford to buy. This creates connection to community, family and friends.
‘Mortgage Mates is like a dating app but for home ownership, matching you with individuals with the same housing preferences, i.e. location, cost and property type. Mortgage Mates is a revolutionary website for the Australian housing market, assisting you to enter the property market in half the time. It will allow you to choose the security of home ownership over rental properties and share houses.’
Whilst these options aren’t for every individual, and don’t eliminate the increased risk our young people face in the property market following Covid-19- they go some way to supporting a currently difficult housing market and ensure eventually, every Australian has a place to call home.