Clear, long-term strategy needed to combat housing and homelessness scourge

National Homelessness Week (1-7 August 2022)

As Tasmania’s levels of housing stress continues to worsen and new data reveals the cost of rents have increased by 6.2% in the past year alone, TasCOSS is calling for a collaborative approach to tackle the current housing crisis.

TasCOSS CEO Ms Adrienne Picone said housing is a collective responsibility and governments at all levels have an obligation to explore every option and pull every lever at their disposal to ensure all Tasmanians have a safe, secure place to sleep at night.

“Despite much-improved targets, we’re simply not building new social and affordable homes fast enough to meet surging demand. More and more Tasmanians can’t find a place to rent, while shelters are full and the wait list for social housing continues to grow. Sleeping rough is a last resort, but for some Tasmanians they are left with no other choice,” Ms Picone said.

“This is why we must explore every available solution to get Tasmanians safe and housed as a matter of urgency.

“It’s time to look look outside the box and start investing in innovative and affordable rental options such as shop-top accommodation, infill housing and retrofitting vacant offices.

“A review of the Residential Tenancy Act is also long overdue to make renting fairer for tenants and give them longer-term security. This is partly to acknowledge that renting will be the norm, not a short-term option, for an increasing number of Tasmanians with home ownership out of reach.”

Ms Picone said the theme of this year’s National Homelessness Week ‘End homelessness: we need a plan’ was a timely one.

“We are pleased to see the new Federal Government’s commitment to developing a national housing plan, however we need to ensure the plan addresses more than just the symptoms and looks closely at the issues which drive homelessness, such as family breakdown,” she said.

“We need to get the response right, so that homelessness is prevented where possible and quickly resolved when people do lose their home.

“With a national government committed to a long-term plan and the Tasmanian Housing Strategy underway, now is the time for all levels of government to work together to address this critical and growing issue.

“To make a real and immediate impact however, we continue to call on the Federal Government to do the right thing and provide a 50% increase to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance payment, which targets help to low income Tasmanians trying to survive in the private rental market, alongside an extension of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

“In a rich society, we should not accept that Tasmanians are forced to live on the streets, in their cars or tents or in unfit, cold and unaffordable housing. We can and must strive to do more to support Tasmanians with safe, affordable and stable housing.”