InDaily

Adelaide's independent news

Support

City homelessness soars since 2001

Analysis

A shortage of affordable rental housing and weak labour markets have led to rising numbers of homeless in big Australian cities, says Sharon Parkinson, Deb Batterham and Margaret Reynolds.

Print article

Homelessness has increased greatly in Australian capital cities since 2001.

Almost two-thirds of people experiencing homelessness are in these cities, with much of the growth associated with severely crowded dwellings and rough sleeping.

Homelessness in major cities, especially severe crowding, has risen disproportionately in areas with a shortage of affordable private rental housing and higher median rents.

Severe crowding is also strongly associated with weak labour markets and poorer areas, with a high proportion of males.

These are some of the key findings of our Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) research released today.

Extending previous AHURI work, we combine 15 years (2001-2016) of homeless estimates from the Australian Census, other customised census and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Specialist Homelessness Service Collection (SHSC) data.

People counted as homeless on census night live in: improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out (rough sleeping); supported accommodation; staying temporarily with other households (i.e. couch surfing); boarding houses; temporary lodging; or severely crowded conditions.

How has the geography of homelessness changed?

Nationally, 63% of all homelessness is found in capital cities. That’s up from 48% in 2001.

Shares (%) of homelessness and population by area type


Authors’ panel dataset (ABS Census homelessness estimates)

At the same time, homelessness has been falling in remote and very remote areas. However, it still remains higher in these areas per head of population.

Homelessness is also becoming more dispersed across major cities.

In Sydney, a corridor of high homelessness rates stretches from the inner city westward through suburbs such as Marrickville, Canterbury, Strathfield, Auburn and Fairfield (more than 30km from the CBD).

In Melbourne, high homelessness rates are found in Dandenong (around 25km southeast of the CBD), Maribyrnong and Brimbank to the west, Moreland and Darebin to the north and Whitehorse to the east, about 15km from the CBD.

Homeless rates in Australia 2016


Authors’ panel dataset (ABS Census homelessness estimates and TSP); ABS digital Statistical Geography Boundaries, SA3, 2016

After accounting for population growth, we see a decline in homeless rates in the CBD and inner areas of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and to an extent Brisbane over the 15 years.

At the same time, homeless rates in outer urban areas have increased. In many regions this increase outpaced population growth.

Change in homeless rate compared with population growth 2001–2016

The highest growth in homeless rates is in those areas where rates increased by 40% or more (the top two deciles) from 2001–2016.
Authors’ panel dataset (ABS Census homelessness estimates and TSP); ABS digital Statistical Geography Boundaries, SA3, 2016

The numbers of households living in severely crowded dwellings in capital cities have doubled in 15 years, accounting for much of the growth in homelessness overall.

In 2001, this group accounted for 35% of people experiencing homelessness, with 27% living in cities.

By 2016, severe crowding rates had soared to 44% of all people experiencing homelessness, with 60% living in capital cities.

Share of severe crowding by area type, 2001–2016


Authors’ panel dataset (ABS Census homelessness estimates)

Rough sleeping has also transformed into an urban phenomenon — nearly half of all rough sleepers in Australia are now found in capital cities.

What is driving these changes?

Homelessness has risen disproportionately in areas with a shortage of affordable private rental housing and higher median rents.

That’s especially the case in Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. In capital city areas with a shortage of affordable private rentals in both 2001 and 2016, severe crowding grew rapidly (by 290.5%) against all homelessness growth (32.6%).

Changes in share of homeless and population by city and region, 2001-16


Authors’ panel dataset (ABS Census homelessness estimates and TSP), Author provided

The effects of rental affordability on homelessness rates still hold after controlling for other area characteristics.

We also find that these rates are strongly correlated with higher shares of particular demographic groups in an area, including males, younger age groups, young families, those with an Indigenous or ethnic background, and unmarried persons.

Severe crowding in capital cities is also strongly associated with weak labour markets and poorer areas with a high proportion of males.

However, these associations do not hold for severe crowding in remote areas.

What should governments and services do?

The way our cities are becoming more unequal over time is shaping the changes in the geography of homelessness.

Governments must find ways to urgently increase both the supply and size of affordable rental dwellings for people with the lowest incomes.

We also require better integration of planning, labour, income support and housing policies targeted to areas of high need.

Rates of severe crowding remain highest in remote areas, and continued efforts to increase housing supply in remote areas, such as the National Partnership on Remote Housing (NPRH), are needed.

Targeted responses are required to combat its growth in major cities.

It is critical that specialist homelessness services, as a first response to homelessness, are well located to respond in areas where demand is highest.

The AHURI report can be downloaded here.

Sharon Parkinson is Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology; Deb Batterham is PhD Candidate, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology, and Margaret Reynolds is Researcher, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Want to comment?

Send us an email, making it clear which story you’re commenting on and including your full name (required for publication) and phone number (only for verification purposes). Please put “Reader views” in the subject.

We’ll publish the best comments in a regular “Reader Views” post. Your comments can be brief, or we can accept up to 350 words, or thereabouts.

InDaily has changed the way we receive comments. Go here for an explanation.

The Conversation

We value local independent journalism. We hope you do too.

InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to become an InDaily supporter.

Powered by PressPatron

More Analysis stories

Loading next article

Subscribe to InDaily – it’s free!

South Australia’s locally owned, independent source of digital news.

Subscribe now and go in the monthly draw* for your chance to WIN a $100 voucher!

Subscribe free here

*Terms and conditions apply

Welcome back!

Did you know it’s FREE to subscribe?

Subscribe now and go in the monthly draw* for your chance to WIN a $100 voucher!

Subscribe

*Terms and conditions apply