26 September 2023

Report finds Canberrans hit by housing costs

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Housing affordability in the ACT caused more Canberrans to seek homelessness assistance at a rate almost double the national average, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Releasing its Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020–21, AIHW said that in 2020-21 one in 107 people in Canberra received homelessness assistance, lower than the national rate of one in 92.

It said the top three reasons for Canberrans to seek assistance were: Financial difficulties 45 per cent compared with 36 per cent nationally; Housing crisis, 44 per cent compared with 34 per cent; and Housing affordability stress 44 per cent, compared with 29 per cent.

“A greater proportion of clients in the ACT than nationally needed accommodation – 78 per cent and 60 per cent respectively,” AIHW said.

“The overall client rate in the ACT was lower in 2020–21 than the previous year, with lower or consistent rates reported for most client groups of interest apart from Indigenous clients, children on care and protection orders, clients leaving care, clients with problematic drug issues and clients with a current mental health problem.”

It said 55 per cent of clients who sought assistance in the ACT were homeless on first presentation, higher than the national rate (43 per cent), with 35 per cent of those who were homeless assisted into housing.

Of the 920 people who began support while at risk of homelessness, AIHW found that around nine in 10 (86 per cent or 790 clients) were assisted to maintain their housing.

Responding to the Report, Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services, Rebecca Vassarotti said the figures were concerning.

“The AIHW data concerns me, particularly around repeat homelessness,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“It is a complex issue which cannot be solved overnight,” she said.

“But there is a clear need to address the challenges that lead people into, and stay, in the homelessness cycle.”

Ms Vassarotti said the Territory had recently started coordinating data collection to identify, record and better understand Canberrans who were sleeping rough on the streets, squatting, in cars, parks, railway carriages or improvised dwellings.

“The ACT Government is also in a co-design process with the homelessness sector and people with lived experience to deliver new initiatives that lower the risk and duration of homelessness,” she said.

AIHW’s two-page fact sheet on homelessness services in the ACT can be accessed at this PS News link and its 113-page full Report at this link.

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