Government’s stark homelessness admission highlights inadequate policy response

Homelessness data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) yesterday should serve as a wake-up call for the Tasmanian Government.

TasCOSS Acting CEO, Dr Charlie Burton, said Housing Minister Guy Barnett’s response to a dramatic increase in the number of Tasmanians now experiencing homelessness left much to be desired.

“We were taken aback by the Minister’s response to the finding that significantly more Tasmanians are now sleeping rough under the Government’s watch, labelling the sharp increase as ‘not surprising,’ said Dr Burton.

“This is a stark and frankly concerning admission from the Government, which highlights the fact that their policy response remains inadequate. 

“We shouldn’t be prepared to accept higher rates of homelessness and more people sleeping rough as a new normal.

“It begs the question: if this concerning data doesn’t ‘surprise’ the Government or jolt them to act, then what level of homelessness or depth to the current crisis are they willing to accept?”

“Applying the increasing rate of homelessness to our current population, the actual number of Tasmanians experiencing homelessness is likely to be higher than 2,600.”

Dr Burton said safe, secure and affordable housing is a human right and the foundation upon which all Tasmanians need to get a good start in life.

“Without a home it is a struggle, if not impossible, to engage in education, training, employment and social connectedness — all further foundations for living a decent life,” he said.

“We know that sleeping rough is a last resort, but for many Tasmanians they are left with no other choice with the wait time for social housing well over a year.

“While building more social and affordable homes is a priority, the Government also has an obligation to seriously investigate more short- to medium-term measures to house Tasmanians who are experiencing homelessness and acute housing stress.

“The good news is there are evidence-based solutions which will alleviate pressure on the housing market, such as introducing an empty homes levy, regulating short-stay accommodation, capping rents and undertaking an urgent review of the Residential Tenancy Act.

“We need a healthy, housed and supported population if our state is to grow in a way that is fair and inclusive. We call on the Tasmanian Government to do more right now to support Tasmanians without a home.”