Where a government spends its money and resources tells you a lot about its priorities. Along with fellow peaks like NCOSS, Shelter NSW recently took the opportunity to influence the NSW Government’s thinking on its future priorities via the 2021-22 Pre Budget submission process.
As we noted in our submission to the Audit Office about the NSW Homelessness Strategy, we commended the Government for its considerable investment in initiatives such as the Together Home program and expanded ‘assertive outreach’ programs. But like many community sector organisations, economists and community leaders, we are concerned about the months and years ahead.
In 2021-22, NSW is facing:
- a decade-high rate of overall unemployment with some towns, regions and demographic groups experiencing differentially high rates
- withdrawal of a substantial Commonwealth COVID-19-income support
- dramatically tightening private rental markets in multiple regional centres
- deferred, accrued residential rental debts being called in
The NSW Government is making good progress towards the NSW Premier’s Priority of reducing street homelessness by 50% by 2025. But we believe this achievement is in jeopardy. In our submission to the NSW Treasury we tried to set out the economic case for preventing homelessness – responding in a crisis mode is expensive and inefficient for Government and the community sector. Preventing homelessness and chronic housing stress is smarter and fairer.
But this requires a stock of appropriate and secure social and transitional housing where and when it is required. The large and growing waiting list for social housing suggests that NSW is not well-placed to respond to the precarious economic conditions.
Here are the headlines, but check out our full submission for more information – especially our observations in Appendix B, about the growing housing crisis in many parts of regional Australia due to the evaporation of any private rental housing (let alone affordable rental dwellings).
Shelter NSW – priorities for the NSW Budget 2021-2022
- Fast track investment in social and affordable housing to prevent homelessness, support economic development and employment across the state including in regional towns
- – Build or acquire 5,000 additional units of social housing each year for the next ten years to address the current backlog and enable an effective response to the growing demand
- – Invest $500 million in an expanded repairs and maintenance program for existing social housing stock to support jobs in the construction industry
- – Increase funding to specialist homelessness services by 20%
- Expand rental assistance to support low-income private renters to access and sustain tenancies
- – Expand investment in rental assistance support to tenants in private rental markets (where appropriate and available properties exist)
- – Establish a genuine rental hardship fund to address COVID-19 rental deferrals debts and prevent homelessness
- Ensure the ongoing financial viability of the social and community services sector (supporting NCOSS PBS)