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Opinion

The housing affordability crisis: Moving to solutions

Opinion

Are you or is someone you know affected by the housing crisis? Are you worried about homelessness and housing affordability? UniSA researchers are trying to find the best solutions for South Australia.

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Week in, week out over the last five years we’ve seen report after report, and indicator after indicator highlighting the extent of the housing problem in Australia. Over the 12 months to October 2021, housing values rose 21.6% while rents climbed 9.2% nationally. But this is just the latest chapter in at least a decade of rising housing costs.

Over the last 20 years, our wages have increased 82% – but there has been a 193% increase in the value of our homes.

COVID has made this issue even more acute, with low-interest rates fuelling a housing price boom even as many household incomes fell due to lockdowns and job losses.

We are past the point where the housing market can fix itself.

We know that Australia’s housing is amongst the most expensive in the world and Adelaide is no exception. In 2021, Adelaide was ranked the 13th most unaffordable metro area out of 92 major international housing markets – only two spots behind London, and less affordable than New York. The challenges of finding a place to rent are substantial, with cost pressures increasing as a result of double-digit growth in local housing prices over the last year.

Many of those experiencing our homelessness are ‘hidden’. Only 7% of people experiencing homelessness sleep rough, with the remainder finding temporary or inadequate shelter any way they can – couch surfing, sleeping in cars, crisis accommodation, boarding houses with short or no tenure, caravan parks or motels. An increasing number of people in this situation are our over-55s. Other groups most vulnerable to housing stress or homelessness include young people aged 15-24, women and children escaping domestic and family violence, First Nations people and people with disabilities.

It’s not clear where a solution lies – and we likely need more than one – but it is clear that whatever commitments are made need to be sustained over the long term.

We can take encouragement from the fact there was a time when Adelaide and Australia were celebrated for our ability to provide housing for all. Professor Hugh Stretton wrote extensively on the importance of affordable and appropriate housing from the 1960s through to the 1990s. We recognised him as one of our leading thinkers and he was also applauded around the world. He was not afraid to experiment with policy in search of what worked, and we need to follow his example.

There are answers to the housing affordability crisis in Australia and they are likely to need governments, industry and the community to work together. It’s also vital for individual Australians to make our voices heard on this topic, especially as we head to the polls.

The link below provides you with an opportunity to share your views. If you can spare a few minutes, please complete the survey:

Survey: Better Housing for South Australians

Dr Helen Dinmore is from The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise at UniSA Business.

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