Tackling homelessness in Australia

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There are numerous policy reforms our nation should consider in order to address homelessness and poor housing affordability.

Experts are suggesting ideas like a new, long-term national plan for housing, more investment and more diverse investors (like super funds and private developers in affordable and social, a permanent increase to Centrelink payments and rental assistance, reform of state and federal taxes, changes to planning laws, assistance for community housing providers to better leverage the stock they manage, investment in build-to-rent schemes, and national reform of state-based tenancy laws to give renters better security of tenure in their homes.

Federal Labor has already called for a new national plan to invest in social housing, led by the Commonwealth and involving a diverse range of investors including state governments, superannuation funds, private equity funds and property developers.

The coronavirus outbreak brought the situation of homeless Australians and those at risk of homelessness into stark light. Many homeless Australians are at significant risk due to COVID-19, unable to isolate effectively and facing difficulties accessing tests and appropriate health care. Rough sleepers, and residents of boarding houses and shared accommodation are especially vulnerable.

Exacerbating all of this is the fact that many organisations that provide outreach and assistance to homeless Australians have had to reduce services or close completely in order to meet social distancing requirements.

A number of homeless people have been offered accommodation in hotels. But this is a short -term solution to a situation that requires a long-term permanent response.

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The construction industry has recently reported a significant drop in work and a worrying outlook for the future. This could put thousands of Australians who rely on the sector for a job at risk of unemployment.

At the same time, there are thousands of Australians who need secure and affordable housing.

There is a significant opportunity for Federal, State and local governments to work together with the construction industry, community housing organisations, private investors and other stakeholders to drive investment in the renewal of existing social housing stock and to build new homes across Australia.

This would drive stimulus in our economy and help us recover from the financial consequences of the COVID19 outbreak. It would also help more Australians get access to a secure and safe home.

Labor is calling for a national plan to guide this investment.

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