Many with­out homes

Soar­ing house prices lock­ing Aus­tralia’s home­less out, say ex­perts

The Star Malaysia - - World -

Soar­ing house prices are push­ing many Aus­tralians out on the streets.

SYD­NEY: Home­less­ness is on the rise in Aus­tralia, ex­perts warn, with a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple fail­ing to ben­e­fit from the na­tion’s stel­lar econ­omy as it read­ies to mark a record 26 years with­out a re­ces­sion.

The un­prece­dented eco­nomic ex­pan­sion, fu­elled by a mas­sive min­ing in­vest­ment boom, had boosted house prices and lined the pock­ets of many cit­i­zens.

But it had also led to the coun­try’s big­gest cities, Syd­ney and Mel­bourne, be­ing ranked sec­ond and 10th on a list of the world’s least af­ford­able hous­ing.

The soar­ing prices have placed fur­ther pres­sure on those al­ready strug­gling to af­ford a roof over their heads, with a pub­lic out­cry on hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity spark­ing ac­tion by fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments to fund more so­cial and in­ex­pen­sive res­i­den­tial projects.

“Aus­tralia is a wealthy coun­try and so it shouldn’t have the lev­els of home­less­ness that it does have,” Home­less­ness New South Wales chief Kather­ine McKer­nan said.

“If you com­pare it to Lon­don and New York, the num­bers of peo­ple seek­ing home­less­ness sup­port are com­par­a­tively higher. We think that home­less­ness is in­creas­ing in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne due to the lack of af­ford­able hous­ing.”

Aus­tralia’s agency for health and wel­fare statis­tics AIHW said de­mand for home­less­ness ser­vices reached a record high of 279,000 peo­ple in 2015-16, led by those af­fected by do­mes­tic and fam­ily vi­o­lence, a 33% jump from 2011-12 when the data was first col­lected.

Over 100,000 peo­ple were re­ported home­less in the 2011 na­tional cen­sus, with wel­fare groups ex­pect­ing the most re­cent sur­vey held last year to show an in­crease.

Rough sleep­ers were more vis­i­ble in cities, with Mel­bourne’s Her­ald Sun de­scrib­ing a home­less camp out­side a ma­jor train sta­tion dur­ing the Aus­tralian Open ten­nis Grand Slam in Jan­uary as a “grand slum”.

In down­town Syd­ney, Lanz Pri­est­ley had set up a “safe space” for the home­less, of­fer­ing full-time ac­cess to free food.

“Peo­ple have the ba­sic hu­man right to feel safe,” Pri­est­ley said.

Sal­va­tore Ma­genta, 64, said he had been liv­ing on the streets since 2000 as he grap­pled with grow­ing health prob­lems.

“I will need hous­ing soon, or some­one will find me dead on the streets.” — AFP

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