Contributed by Ben Wilson
I came across this terrible article, blaming the crisis of housing affordability and homelessness experienced by older women on the younger generation. It was written by Siobhan Kenna (19 May 2019 for 10 Daily News).
I have issue with this, mainly because its dead wrong.
Siobhan correctly points out that homeless women over 55 “has increased by a whopping 31 percent since 2011.” Then she compares this with other people, whose rate has only gone up by 14 percent.
Another truism is she touches on, is that many women stay with friends, couch surf, and live in boarding houses and hostels. Thus, the actual number of women without a home is much bigger than the homelessness figures would suggest.
Where Siobhan goes wrong, is that the fault is laid at first home buyers. By buying up, they are pushing up the price of housing you see. What she doesn’t see, is that most sales these days are to investors. Some buy up to rent to others. Many acquire properties to rake in from the negative gearing windfall that the government has provided.
First home buyers are not the ones pushing up prices.
Siobhan also leaves out that a big part of the problem is that pensions and especially Newstart, are disgracefully well below the poverty line. On top of this, the system is designed to penalise and put as many as possible off benefits.
Unless benefits are sufficient, and the punitive nature of Centrelink changes, the lack of housing affordability will continue to plague Australia.
Without taking these factors into consideration, there can be little understanding about the lack of affordable housing.
Oder women have other disadvantages. It is harder for them to get work. Some have left bad marriages and even violence. They are discriminated against in the housing market. This accounts for their higher number among the homeless.
But it has to be acknowledged, that younger Australians are also heavily hit. If anything, the number of young homeless is underestimated more than it is for any other group. The norm is to crowd up into a property and share the rent with a larger number to cut down the individual cost. This hardly leads to suitable housing in the longer term.
A large number of young people are couch surfing. Others are staying with their parents, way past where they would have ventured out into the world in past times.
All of this is hiding a big part of Australia’s homelessness.
And of course, the younger generation is well represented among those sleeping in the streets.
Younger Australians also suffer from an inability to find work, and when they do, are seriously underpaid. Young people are over-represented in the hospitality and app delivery industries, where penalty rates and even hourly wages are a thing of the past.
Older men should not be neglected either. Even if not to the same extent, many suffer from the sort of problems affecting older women.
We need solutions, which will provide an answer to all who cannot find a decent home to live in.
The first part, is to insist on a major government housing provision plan. Leaving it to the market has been a big part of the problem. It is not providing affordable housing and an alternative is needed.
But this does not come alone. The reality is that we are in an economic crisis that is deepening. Many are experiencing a declining standard of living, and some among us inevitably fall into the hole of homelessness because of it.
Unless enough is done to turn the economy around and the gains are shared fairly, the problem of homelessness is bound to continue to grow.