Federal MP says housing should be a human right


A member of Parliament called on the government to legislate housing as a human right to help reduce housing inequalities and homelessness.

Macnamara Labor MP Josh Burns advocated housing as a human right in a report by a Labor-aligned think tank, the McKell Institute.

In the wake of the pandemic, Mr Burns said more needs to be done to help the estimated 1.3 million Australians who are struggling to:

  • Rent a house or pay your rent
  • Afford their mortgage payments
  • Find social housing accommodation
  • Or facing homelessness

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While some argue that a codified right to housing is only a symbolic gesture, the report says it would force the government to “accept legal responsibility to tackle homelessness.”

“A legally enforceable right to housing would help meet the immediate need for crisis accommodation,” the report says.

Mr Burns said too many Australians do not have a home.

“The truth is that before the coronavirus Australia had a severe housing shortage – especially affordable and social housing,” he said.

“We know that a house is bigger than its four walls – this gives every Australian a share in the collective success of our economy.

“This pandemic has exacerbated housing affordability challenges for too many Australians. For Australians who can no longer afford homeownership, we need to do more.”

Mr Burns said the right to housing “is not radical” because other countries already have such a right, such as France and Scotland.

“The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, recognizes the right to adequate housing,” he said.

“And with the accompanying change of political perspective, the government could begin the long journey on the road to dismantling the structural inequalities that created this mess.

“In doing so, we would see both the community-wide benefit of helping individuals and the long-term benefit of a healthier and fairer housing market.”

This The report proposes a four-step plan to reduce homelessness and housing inequalities:

  • An investment effort in social housing (see below)
  • Increased funding in the event of a crisis accommodation and policies that prevent funding cuts
  • Housing law as a human right
  • And a nationally coordinated plan to limit the grounds for eviction and improve tenants’ habitability standards

Need more social housing?

In the report, there is a call for more spending on social housing, which is supported by many economists as not only economically efficient, but as a key way to help with housing affordability.

A $ 7 billion investment in social housing could boost the economy by $ 18.2 billion over two years, but as The new daily reports, Housing Minister Michael Sukkar said social housing programs are the domain of states and territories.

For example, Victoria ($ 5.3 billion) and NSW ($ 813 million) have pledged social housing infrastructure in their public budgets.

However, the Morrison government has made the following pledges against housing inequalities in 2020-2021:

  • About $ 129 million in funding dedicated to homelessness and about $ 5.5 billion to 1.7 million people to help pay their rent (rent assistance)
  • Increased the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) low-cost funding cap from $ 2 billion to $ 3 billion to support construction of new affordable homes.

More than 850,000 Australians live in social or public housing (Institute of Health and Welfare).

Housing inequalities in figures

Inequality is developing in the housing market, as a result of huge price spikes and an increase mortgage application and requests and first-time buyer approvals.

Rental stress, mortgage stress, evictions, homelessness and the lack of social housing all contribute to the housing haves and have-nots.

Based on a wide variety of data sources:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics counts nearly 117,000 Australians in some form of homelessness, although other sources say the rate is more than double.

Among OECD countries, Australia has the third highest homeless population as a share of the population (0.48%), behind New Zealand (0.94%).

However, part of this is because Australia and New Zealand have fairly broad definitions of homelessness that include people in temporary accommodation or those sharing accommodation with a household.

By comparison, Japan – which has the smallest proportion of homeless – specifically defines homelessness as those who sleep rough in a park, riverbed, road, or train station.

Need more funding for homeless services?

From July of this year, Homelessness programs across Australia are expected to lose around $ 57 billion in funding when the Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation for homeless services ends.

Mission Australia, St Vincent de Paul Society, Wesley Mission and The Salvation Army have said this funding should not be taken away from vital services during a time of great need and demand.

“If the government cuts millions of dollars in homeless services, there will be more than 500 fewer frontline workers who will help people find housing and other services they need,” said James Toomey, CEO of Mission Australia.

“Homelessness is likely to increase when JobKeeper ends and the JobSeeker payment is reduced at the end of this month. This will lead to increased demand for these vital homeless services.

“Now is not the time to try to save $ 57 million at the expense of homeless people and the programs that support them.

“The amount needed to keep these vital homeless services afloat is about 10% of what was immediately pledged at Aged Care this month. “

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

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