Homelessness

I rise to speak on the ministerial statement on homelessness, and I thank the shadow minister for homelessness, the honourable member for Deakin, for the informed contribution he made yesterday. The cost-of-living crisis hitting Western Sydney is having astronomical impacts on so many people. Over recent months, there are more tents along Peach Tree Creek in my electorate of Lindsay. This is concerning and demonstrates the homelessness problem facing the nation.

In my community, I've spoken with local food banks and charities, who are working overtime to assist those in need, from providing a warm meal to trying to provide them with emergency and safe housing. One local church recently told me there has been a sharp rise in dual-income households accessing their services, when they had not experienced this previously. These are proud Western Sydney mums and dads who don't want to be seeking a handout, but due to the cost-of-living pressures—higher mortgage rates, ever-increasing energy bills, fresh food costing more and inflation being uncontrollable—they have nowhere else to go.

A few months ago, I held a housing and homelessness roundtable for local community leaders, community housing providers and charities to discuss solutions to the sudden and rapidly growing crisis of homelessness impacting the Lindsay community. They said more government support is needed to control inflation that is outstripping pay rises. An additional spend of more than $180 billion in the most recent budget certainly isn't helping to tame the inflation that is causing so much distress in my community and in every middle-Australia community across the country.

We know adequate and secure housing is the foundation for improving outcomes for health, education and economic furtherment in life. Kids need a home that is happy and warm. Unfortunately, the housing crisis is causing mental health issues for mums and dads, and this is spiralling through the family and impacting kids. I met with Kids Helpline last week, and they have noted a rise in really young children using their service, worried about their parents not being able to pay the mortgage or the rent and potentially becoming homeless. They are hearing these discussions that their parents are having and the distress that their financial issues are causing. This is shocking in a country like Australia.

This year's theme for Homelessness Week is It's Time to End Homelessness. The housing crisis is causing immense homelessness issues right now, and we do need solutions now.

As someone who, directly prior to being elected to parliament, worked for a community housing provider, and has also worked in government on social impact investment and affordable housing policy, I know there is always more to be done in this space.

Over five years ago when I was working in community housing, we were seeing a sharp increase in older women experiencing homelessness because they didn't have the financial support in their older years; they didn't have superannuation. We were raising the alarm back then, and still we are seeing a huge increase in older women experiencing homelessness and not having the housing product that is right for them and affordable for them.

The former coalition government was a leader in the policy area of housing, creating the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation—a key initiative which has helped many Australians into homes. The former government ensured the program supported 15,000 social and affordable homes across Australia. There was also the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, which has seen almost 7,000 more social and affordable dwellings. It was the first time the Commonwealth had invested in housing in this way, as the former housing minister has spoken about. It is good to see. I say 'good' because more needs to be done to see the government take on these two coalition initiatives, which have seen meaningful impacts for Australian families and helped in reducing homelessness. Further, the coalition secured the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, which targeted specific cohorts of Australians in need of housing, including older women, families impacted by domestic violence, young people who live out of home, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those who have experienced long-term homelessness. These policies were all geared to get Australians out of homelessness.

But the figures are astounding. Things aren't shifting. I'm informed that there are 122,000 individuals who are facing homelessness on a nightly basis across the nation. Nearly a quarter of those are aged between 21 and 24. This needs direct and immediate action. If we can secure housing for these younger Australians early, we have a chance to turn their lives around and make sure they do not become another statistic of a person facing long-term homelessness. Our older Australians are silent sufferers of homelessness, with around 20,000 over-55s facing homelessness on a nightly basis.

We know that around 175,000 households are on social housing waitlists which extend to 10 years and more. In my home state of New South Wales, we are facing a social housing waitlist of 57,500 people. This is made up of 51,000 in the general waitlist, and 6½ thousand on the priority list who need assistance right now.

I want to acknowledge the local New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice housing team for their work in looking after so many social housing tenants across the Lindsay electorate. I also acknowledge our community housing providers, who do a lot of work in providing not only housing but also wrap-around support, with the ultimate aim that people don't stay long-term in social housing but can move on to the private market, which seems absolutely impossible for so many people right now. To the people who are on the frontline of homelessness every day: I know you are working so extremely hard to make a difference, but we do need more support, across Lindsay and across Australia, to end homelessness.

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