Figures released by the Department of Communities show a growing eviction rate in Western Australia and a need for urgent investment in social housing.
The figures show that 616 households were evicted from public housing in 2018-19, up from 562 in 2017-18.
The majority of evictions were due to rent arrears, or other unspecified reasons which include failure to pay other bills such water or for property standards.
This points to an underlying issue, that the majority of people who are evicted are likely to be experiencing poverty. The hidden truth behind the statistics are families with children, or people with mental health issues, are evicted by government, often into homelessness.
Shelter WA along with Tenancy WA and the WA Association of Mental Health continues to call for an immediate moratorium on evicting children, and people with serious mental health issues from public housing.
This is not a crisis of anti-social behaviour. These are evictions due to poverty and mental illness issues.
Losing a safe, stable place to call home because you are poor or unwell is not an appropriate course of action. Children who evicted into homelessness have their schooling interrupted, are at increased risk of health issues. This is a serious child protection risk. Evictions exacerbate mental health issues and do not support recovery.
Department of Communities service delivery acting assistant director-general Glenn Mace said ending a tenancy agreement was always a last resort.
Speaking to The West Australian Mr Mace said: “Termination proceedings are only initiated when tenants fail to utilise all the opportunities provided to them to pay outstanding debts, improve behaviour or improve property standards.”
We would urge the Department to look to at the many examples within the community sector where agencies work hard to help people maintain and sustain their tenancies.
Released data also shows Western Australia continues to have a social housing system in crises. Any wait time for social housing is unacceptable. And for people seeking priority housing in urgent need of a home, often due to a crisis such as for family and domestic violence, any wait is too long.
Shelter WA does not accept that there will always be more demand for public housing that the supply side can deliver. With the right policy settings, government investment, partnerships with industry and the community sector, we can build a housing system that provides the homes for all people in WA, including those on very low and low incomes.
This should be our goal. Anything less is unacceptable.
The Rethink Social Housing website shows that there are 13,953 people on the WA waitlist and 1,318 people on the priority waitlist.
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