Severe Overcrowding – the largest and fastest growing category of homelessness in Australia

Severe overcrowding is the largest and fastest growing category of homelessness. According to the 2016 census, there were over 51,000 people living in such conditions across Australia.

Image: NSW Parliamentary Research Service, Homelessness in NSW: Electorate Statistics, Number 4/December 2018

Severe overcrowding is defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as occurring when the usual (not temporary or casual) residents of the dwellings require four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate them adequately. Not two or three, but four. Imagine a household that requires an additional four or more bedrooms to be considered a reasonable place to live longer-term.

Imagine what is likely to be the related limited access to bathrooms, toilets, wash basins and laundry facilities. Imagine the practical realities of such a lack of privacy, health risks and difficulties for any household member trying to work or be educated from home?

Shelter NSW recently made a submission to a Federal Parliament Standing Committee on Homelessness. CEO John Engeler appeared before the Committee with Adrian Pisarski, CEO National Shelter.
You can see both the original submission made by National Shelter (No 86) with our input and a more detailed piece on severe overcrowding in the supplementary document (Submission No 86.1) via this link: Federal Parliament – Standing Committee on Housing & Homelessness
Readers will note that we referenced quite a bit of information from the Canterbury Bankstown Council Housing and Affordable Housing Strategy documents as they had given some attention to the problem of overcrowding within its local area.
We think there is still quite a bit to understand about why people live in severely overcrowded dwellings and what might be the options for reducing that need. In the next bulletin we will share details of a project we have kicked off to explore why overcrowding is growing and ways to reduce it. We will be taking a special look at the incidence of overcrowding in the south-west of Sydney.
In the meantime you can read the Interim Report into Homelessness in Australia (titled Shelter in the storm – COVID-19 and homelessness, October 2020) released by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs. You will note that the various state-based and national Shelter organisations are well represented.