Housing, homelessness and mental health: towards systems change
This research progresses the priority areas identified by the National Mental Health Commission (Commission) and provides evidence about the systemic issues and policy levers that need to be addressed to provide more and better housing and more and better services for people with lived experience with mental ill health.
A lack of appropriate, affordable and sustainable housing is an impediment to scaling up successful programs nationally. However, coordination with the private rental sector can facilitate access to an immediate and greater supply of established homes, potentially enabling program providers to readily scale up in response to increased program demand.
Disrupted: The consumer experience of renting in Australia
We all need a home we can count on. It’s very difficult to raise a family, go to work, be part of our local communities or maintain our health and wellbeing without a good place to call home.
Across the nation, more and more people are renting their homes. There are now over 2.6 million households in Australia who rent. These Australians are raising families. They are sending their children to local schools. They are growing old and retiring.
Disrupted – the second report commissioned by CHOICE, National Shelter, and The National Association of Tenant Organisations (NATO) – delves into the issues facing Australians who rent.
Dwelling Commencements (WA)
This report forecasts dwelling commencements in Western Australia (WA) for the period 2018 to 2021. It shows dwelling commencements are at the lowest level since 1984 and it is expected that it will remain static over the coming year.
Rental Affordability Index
National Shelter, Community Sector Banking, Brotherhood St Laurence and SGS have released the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) on a biannual basis since 2015. A price index for rental housing markets, the RAI is an easy to understand indicator of rental affordability relative to household incomes. It is applied to geographic areas across Australia.
With a RAI of 144, rental affordability in Greater Perth has remained stable. The median rental household in Greater Perth faces rents costing about 21 per cent of their total income. This is considered acceptable. Despite this, rental property remains much less affordable for lower-income households.
In response to the findings, Shelter WA Chief Executive Officer Michelle Mackenzie said: “While rental affordability has improved for median-income households, when we look at low-income tenants renting in Perth they continue to face a general lack of affordability – especially single pensioners, women in private rental and other low-income households. There is a critical need to look at rental subsidy options, such as Commonwealth Rental Assistance, as a response along with increasing more diverse, affordable rental housing options."
Social housing as infrastructure: an investment pathway
This research modelled five alternative pathways to funding social housing and found the ‘capital grant’ model, supplemented by efficient financing, provides the most cost effective model for Australia. The research also established the current and future unmet need for social housing in different parts of Australia.
This research builds a customised method for establishing both current unmet need (the backlog) for social housing and future projected need, based on a proportionate share of expected future household growth. It also provides evidence for the diverse geography of land and construction costs based on industry and project level data.
Amplify Insights: Housing Affordability and Homelessness
Delves into the key drivers of homelessness and looks at the critical issue of housing affordability in Australia, while offering insights into the way forward.
Homelessness in Australia is an urgent and growing problem. On any given night, 1 in 200 people are homeless. The total number of people experiencing homelessness grew by 14 per cent between the last two censuses (2011-2016), to over 116,000 people.
Homelessness is not just rooflessness. We have seen the greatest increases in homelessness among people living in severely overcrowded dwellings; thus making homelessness increasingly hidden. Certain groups are particularly at risk of homelessness, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (3 in 100), young people (1 in 100), and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (1 in 100). The key drivers of homelessness include domestic violence, the high costs of housing, the inadequacy and inappropriateness of existing housing stock, and the discharge of people from institutions who do not have safe, stable, affordable homes to go to.
We do not have a housing supply crisis in Australia; we have an affordable housing supply crisis.
Energy Stressed in Australia
New report finds energy spending has hit a new high for low-income households, who spend 6.4% of their income on energy on average, with a quarter spending more than 8.8%.
High-income households spend just 1.5% on average.
ACOSS and the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) commissioned Associate Professor Ben Phillips, from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, to analyse the cost of energy (electricity and gas) for a range of household types in Australia. Households living with low incomes or experiencing disadvantage, who are paying disproportionately more of their income on energy than the national average, are more likely to experience energy stress. Combined with the current housing affordability crisis, low wage inflation, long-term unemployment and only one job for every eight people looking for paid work, higher energy costs have had serious consequences for some households.
Some have been tipped over the edge, and are going without heating and cooling, meals, and other basic essentials in order to afford their energy bills.
To inform the development of appropriate policy solutions, policymakers need to better understand who is most impacted by high electricity prices.
Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence
The release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2016 Census estimates of homelessness revealed that homelessness in Australia had risen 4.6% relative to the 2011 Census.
Despite national reforms and significant policy and practice efforts, homelessness continue to persist and, indeed, grow. This calls for a reflection and further research to develop a stronger understanding of the drivers of homelessness and, from a policy perspective, a way forward that engages all groups of societal stakeholders to end homelessness rather than manage it.
WA Strategy to End Homelessness
The Western Australian Strategy to End Homelessness has been developed by the WA Alliance to End Homelessness following an 18-month community campaign bringing together contributions of many people from homelessness services, those experiencing homelessness, funders of services and members of the community.
The Strategy is intended to be replicable in terms of process and acts as a guidance in terms of approach. The plan can act as a blueprint and be adopted by any community wishing to end homelessness.
The Alliance encourages other communities and stakeholders to use the plan which will assist in ensuring there is a consistent approach being used across the state.
The WA Alliance to End Homelessness is comprised of a group of organisations that have come together to end homelessness in Western Australia.
You can read more about the Alliance here. Click the document to read in full.
Area of housing continuum: Social housing and affordable housing for key service workers.
Client group served: Social housing clients as well as individuals on low incomes in Broome.
Project value: $11.21 mil inclusive of land.
How it was delivered: The Broome North homes were built in partnership with LandCorp (Estate Developer)and Foundation Housing
Funding: Foundation Housing
How affordability is ensured long term: Some properties within the development have attracted NRAS funding. All homes feature a wide range of low maintenance passive thermal design appropriate for the Kimberly environment.
Awards: 2014 Master Builders Award
Housing affordability issues likely to persist
The Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA) recently (August 29, 2017) released a report Housing Australia which provides a holistic review of housing in Australia.
The report provides a raft of recommendations for all tiers of government that should be further explored.
These recommendations include: relaxing planning restrictions, particularly those imposed by local councils - making them more consistent and allowing for increased density; developing consistent planning and funding models for transport infrastructure to better connect new housing developments to the various employment hubs; improving protections for long-term renters; further relaxing rules around the means testing of income received from downsizing in situations where it results in greater housing density; moving towards annual land tax in place of transaction taxes on housing such as stamp duty and taxing a larger component of capital gains.
Read and download Housing Australia report
67 Bennett Street, East Perth
Area of housing continuum: Long term accommodation for low income singles and couples and low income individuals who earn above social housing limits.
Client group served: Singles and couples on low incomes.
Project value: $26million
How it was delivered: 67 Bennett St, was previously the site of an old style 21 bed lodging house owned by Foundation Housing.
Foundation Housing funded the development, with a $1.7m contribution from the WA Housing Authority. The 70 units were a significant part of the organisation’s commitment to deliver 112 new affordable units of accommodation following the stock transfer that occurred through the Community Housing Agreement with the Western Australian Department of Housing.
Funding: Funding was provided by Foundation Housing with a $1.7m contribution from the WA Housing Authority.
How affordability is ensured long term: Bennett Street has been designed with sustainability in mind. Sophisticated design features have been incorporated into the building to minimise utility costs for residences and maintenance costs for Foundation Housing. Its position in the inner city, close to transport, education, training and employment opportunities and services such as healthcare, all contribute to a better standard of living for tenants.
If you know of any affordable housing projects that you would like showcased, please contact: Karen Valenti at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rents still not affordable in WA
National Shelter, Community Sector Banking and SGS Economics and Planning earlier this year released the Rental Affordability Index that revealed rents were still not affordable in Western Australia.
The index, which is released on a biannual basis, is an indicator of rental affordability compared with household incomes.
See Rental Affordability Index interactive map here: http://www.sgsep.com.au/maps/Joseph/RAI_May17/
The RAI is based on Western Australian households with an income of $85,000, and it is a much different picture for those people living under those incomes.
For people on income support - for instance the Newstart allowance - rental properties are still extremely unaffordable.
Also, for people on very low incomes - which is less than 50 per cent of the median income of $85,000 - most of Western Australia, including the city, remote, rural, and regional areas, remains unaffordable.
Shelter WA wants to see the development of more social housing to support Western Australians doing it tough.
See the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) https://tinyurl.com/n4vmm2n
• Western Australia is the only Australian jurisdiction where average household incomes for households, that rent their accommodation, are higher in regional areas than in metropolitan Perth.
• When housing is unaffordable, low income households pay a large proportion of their income on rent, often foregoing basic necessities. If this cannot be sustained, it can lead to homelessness.
• With more than 18,500 people on the Housing Authority wait list, and an average wait time of three years, the housing needs of Western Australians most in need are not being met.
• The average household that rents accommodation in greater Perth pays 21 per cent of its total income on rent – the most affordable of all the metropolitan areas in Australia.
• Some areas north of the river remain unaffordable to severely unaffordable, while some urban pockets can be further considered moderately unaffordable.
Mental health, housing and homelessness
Recent research shows more than 25 per cent of Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) clients with a mental health issue reported housing crisis as the main reason for seeking assistance.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has recently updated its Mental Health Services in Australia (MHSA) website with the new research.
The site also includes information from the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) describing clients who receive services from specialist homelessness agencies and the assistance they receive, including clients with a current mental health issue.
The report talks about the need for appropriate accommodation and support as critical for individuals in both prevention and response.
The impact of unaddressed homelessness and insecure housing among people with a severe mental illness has significant social and economic dimensions broader than health.
Key points from the report include:
- About half of SHS clients (47.6%) with a current mental health issue reported an episode of homelessness in the 12 months before presenting to an agency, compared with one third (32.6%) of those clients without a current mental health issue
- For clients with a current mental health issue, 18–24 year olds had the highest rate of SHS agency use followed by 15–17 year olds (635.0 and 586.3 per 100,000 population respectively) in 2015–16
- Rates of SHS agency use were higher for females with a current mental health issue than males with a current mental health issue
- The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SHS clients with a current mental health issue was more than 6 times that of non-Indigenous Australians
- More than 1 in 4 SHS clients with a mental health issue reported housing crisis as the main reason for seeking assistance, followed by domestic and family violence inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions and financial difficulties. In contrast, domestic and family violence, housing crisis and financial difficulties were the top three main reasons for seeking assistance for SHS clients without a current mental health issue.
To find out more go to: https://mhsa.aihw.gov.au).
The End of the Road – Rooming Housing in South Australia
Shelter SA has been working on a project, over the past year, focused on the operation of for-profit rooming houses. This is the first methodical study of the rooming house sector in South Australia since 2003.
The Shelter SA project was instigated in response to clear findings in the earlier research that provision of housing in this sector lacks sufficient or consistent regulation and is ill-suited to the diverse and often severely compromised health and personal circumstances of vulnerable residents.
Shelter SA has undertaken a targeted examination of for-profit rooming house provision in our State, evaluated research into practices here and in other jurisdictions, considered relevant legislative frameworks regulating the sector, and conducted a direct consultation with residents, landlords and service providers.
While there is variability in the quality of housing provided in this sector, and some landlords who endeavour to meet the needs of their residents, our study has identified that some rooming houses are well below accepted community standards. Participants in our consultation cited various safety issues they have seen including unsafe stairs, faulty electrical wiring and leaking roofs.
The Shelter SA project also found that the congregate nature of rooming houses has meant that highly controlled approaches to management of vulnerable residents have become enshrined in the housing model. At their worst, rooming houses contravene the rights of residents to privacy, visitation from family and friends, control over bedroom space and the details of everyday life. For vulnerable citizens facing multiple health and personal issues, a monitored and restrictive environment does not support recovery or independence, with established research confirming such environments can undermine mental health.