A major investment in social housing by government in areas such as Albury-Wodonga is needed to address major housing affordability issues, an academic says.
Dr Emma Power said it was clear that housing affordability was having a significant impact on the rising rate of homelessness.
Her views back that of many working in the homeless sector on the Border, who have said financial problems were a considerable issue for many people.
“Older women over the age of 55 are one of the fastest-growing groups of homeless people in the country,” she said.
Dr Power said that was for reasons such as women losing their partners then finding themselves without the financial resources to maintain their home. Even if they managed to hang-on to their home, they spent up to 70 per cent of their income on rent.
“You speak to people living in this situation and they’re skimping on heating in the middle of winter, they’re skimping on the food that they eat.
“It’s going to have an impact on their health, which is going to be a much longer social cost than merely dealing with the housing crisis”
Dr Power, a senior research fellow in geography and urban studies at Western Sydney University, said there needed to be a switch in thinking by government on how housing was provided.
“We tend to put more value on the investor’s right to buy and sell a property and make profit out of it than we do on the right of someone to have a home,” she said.
“I would argue that in a caring society that we would be more concerned with the person’s capacity to have a secure home than with the right of another person to make money.”
Dr Power is a strong advocate in favour of both government and major companies getting involved in investing in social housing as a way to address both a shortage of rental stock and the growing homelessness crisis.
She said recent research revealed 50 per cent of renters were on fixed-term one-year leases, with another 20 per cent on month-by-month rolling leases.
“That means 70 per cent of people renting who are in an incredibly precarious position.
“Housing is not just a shelter. It connects people into education, employment, community and family.”