Newcastle looks to Finland for Housing First inspiration

Shelter NSW was extremely happy to be invited back to participate in the City of Newcastle’s ongoing Inclusive Conversations series: ‘Housing and Homelessness: The Local Landscape’.  It was a day of listening and learning about housing and homelessness responses – from the very local to global.

Cathy Callaghan, Senior Policy Officer Shelter NSW, presented highlights from Shelter’s own Regional Housing Need report highlighting the worrying status of the Newcastle local government area as number 4 of the areas with highest housing need across Regional NSW.  She also took the opportunity to share some of the highlights of the Regional Housing Taskforce Recommendations report.

All attendees were struck by the contributions of Saija Turunen, Research Manager at Y-Foundation Finland.  According to its website, the Y-Foundation is ‘one of the key national developers of the Housing First principle in Finland, offering affordable rental housing’. With over 18,000 apartments in 57 cities and municipalities, Y-Foundation is the fourth largest landlord in Finland.

Image courtesy of Michelle Faithful.
From top left clockwise: Richelle Hedtsrom, City of Newcastle; Brad Webb, Committee for the Hunter; Michelle Faithful, Compass Housing Services;  Cathy Callaghan, Shelter NSW; Shane Cahill, City of Newcastle;  Emilie Wiggers, Lake Macquarie City Council.

Saija noted during her presentation that Finland is the only country in Europe where the number of homeless people is on the decline (currently 4,000 people, down from over 20,000 people in the mid-1980s).  A collaborative and determined effort by Government, local government and NGOs – united under the principle and operating model of Housing First have achieved this outcome (with a commitment to achieve more).

When asked about incentives like Australia’s negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions (encouraging investment and speculation in housing assets) Saija seemed quite perplexed, noting that in her opinion, such incentives did not exist in Finland.

Shelter NSW is delighted to have formed such great connections with the City of Newcastle, local community organisations and leaders and looks forward to strengthening this partnership in 2022 and beyond.