Thousands of Queenslanders waiting for public housing amid ‘crisis’
More than 2,000 households were added to the social housing register in Queensland last financial year, though demand is stabilising according to the state government.
As of June 2021, there were 27,933 applications for public housing, amounting to 50,301 people.
It’s a jump from June 2020 but less than half the size of the increase the year before — when the register went from 21,242 in June 2019 to 25,853.
Close to 6,000 of the households currently waiting are in the Brisbane City Council area, and more than 3,000 are in the Gold Coast City Council area.
There are around 2,000 households waiting in Moreton Bay, Townsville, Cairns and Logan local government areas and more than 1,700 in the Sunshine Coast.
Of the applications, 20,408 had been classified as “very high need”, which includes people who are homeless or have inappropriate housing and have multiple, complex factors significantly impacting their ability to access and sustain housing.
“Given the impact of COVID-19 on the housing market right across the state, it is not unexpected to see an increase in people seeking support through the Housing Register,” said Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch.
“What the figures show this year is the beginning of a stabilisation of the numbers of households being added to the Housing Register annually.”
Ms Enoch said the government provides other forms of housing support — including bond loans, rental grants and RentConnect services — saying in 2020/21 that involved 205,000 forms of housing assistance.
In the most recent state budget, the government committed $1.9 billion over four years to increase social housing stocks and pledged to create a $1 billion housing investment fund.
“This is the largest concentrated investment in social housing in Queensland’s history and will deliver 7,400 new social and affordable home commencements across Queensland over the next four years,” said Ms Enoch.
The Queensland Council of Social Service analysed the past five years of social housing register figures and said in that time, the list has increased by 78 per cent.
It said the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households on the register had increased from 3,545 in 2017 to 9,403 in 2021 — a huge overrepresentation.
“On average, Queenslanders in need of social housing are waiting in excess of 28 months,” said chief executive Aimee McVeigh.
She said the government’s recent funding commitments were “a good first step” but the magnitude of the crisis required a marathon.
“We need the Commonwealth, state and local government to work together to solve this crisis,” she said.
“The current level of investment will only address 21 per cent of the housing register and this does not account for the likelihood of continued exponential increases.”
Little relief for crisis services
Kevin Mercer from St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland, which provides crisis housing services, said demand had increased significantly as the state emerged from the first COVID-19 lockdown last year.
He said interstate migration has pushed property prices up, which has flowed down into the rental markets.
“Those people who are on lower incomes or maybe being supported on welfare are now being pushed out of properties and are struggling to find a place to live,” he said.
“It’s been really hard for our members because there really isn’t any housing options out there for people. We’ve found a lot of people have been making do with living in tents or the back of their cars.
“This is people who are working families on low incomes, their kids go to school in the local community, they work in the local community and they can no longer afford to live there.”
Mr Mercer said short-term crisis housing continued to be used for long-term shelter because there isn’t anywhere for people to go.
He said nothing had changed much in recent months.
“The state government budget announcements, I guess provided some hope for all of us that there’s substantial support there, that in time we’ll be able to build up our social housing stock and our affordable housing stock, but in the short term we’re not really seeing that anything much has changed.
“People are still struggling to afford accommodation.
“It takes time to get that stock up and running and being able to offer that to people.”