Housing crisis

Housing crisis must be at center of Bega and Monaro by-elections, say homeless people

Isabelle (pseudonym) is a single mother from the Bega Valley and although she has rented all her life, she recently found herself without a place to call home.

The 42-year-old has spent more than six months applying for rentals across New South Wales, from locations from Wollongong to the Victorian border and up to the Snowy Mountains.

However, like many in the far south coast region, she has been unable to find accommodation.

“Especially being a mother of a 12 year old who doesn’t know when he will have a stable roof over his head.”

Mission Australia helped her family find temporary accommodation on the far south coast.

Mission Australia has helped many families in the South East trying to find housing.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

Isabelle depends on her disability pension for income and she now sleeps in a motel in Eden with her son and brother.

She said that while she was grateful to have a roof over their heads, she was worried about how long they could continue to pay $600 a week for the two bedrooms.

“It’s not something we can afford,” she said.

10 years of waiting for social housing

Local service providers in South East New South Wales said there simply wasn’t enough accommodation to meet “ever-increasing” demand.

Southern Cross Housing chief operating officer Eric Coulter said it could take more than a decade for people on the social housing list to get a property.

“In our regions, we are looking at a minimum wait time on a social housing waiting list of between five and 10 years,” he said.

However, Mr Coulter said solving the problem required everyone’s input.

“While we must lead the way [to fix] homelessness and the current crisis…it’s not just a government or non-profit solution,” he said.

“Everyone has to be involved.”

A drone photo of new homes in a suburb, some of which have solar panels on their roofs.
Southern Cross Housing says the wait time for some social housing is over 10 years.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

An electoral issue

Isabelle believes voters need to think about the housing crisis in the upcoming Bega and Monaro by-elections on February 12.

She said it is time for the government to take urgent action and properly tackle the problem.

“That’s what they get paid for.”

A woman in a black top standing with her back to the camera looking out a door
Isabelle is calling on the state government to take stronger action to address the housing crisis.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

Last week the NSW government announced $30 million to tackle the housing crisis. Eligible councils can apply for $1.4 million each to fast-track the supply of ready-made land for homes.

Liberal candidate in the Bega by-election, Fiona Kotvjos, said funding was just one of many strategies needed to address the problem.

“This announcement is an announcement that will help solve the housing problem and there are a range of strategies that we need to adopt,” she said.

“A lot of the real challenges we face are the consequence of a lack of a truly integrated approach and that’s what we need to do.”

A cardboard box of food
Mission Australia delivers food to Isabelle’s family to help them get by while living in the motel.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

The two main party candidates have yet to release specific policies they would bring to government if elected, but agreed more money and work was needed to fix the issue.

Bega’s Labor candidate Michael Holland said government taxes could be better used to deal with shortages.

“They raise a lot of housing taxes with stamp duty, property taxes and taxes that they raise through Airbnb,” he said.

“That could be fed back into the support housing.”

Isabelle said that whatever the outcome of the by-elections, politicians must use their positions of power to bring about meaningful change for vulnerable Australians.

“I don’t even know where I’m going next week, living paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

“I have to ask for help from the services and [politicians] couldn’t even imagine the humiliation of that.