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July 6, 2022

The Greens’ big plans for homelessness services, homes

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Greens Housing spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, launched the new housing policy with Greens candidate Mandy Nolan, on Sunday. Photo Tree Faerie.

The phrases ‘affordable housing’, ‘public housing’, or ‘social housing’ rattle around in the realms of decision-makers, yet hundreds of people in the Northern Rivers are still homeless, and post-flood the situation isn’t getting any better.

With the election on our doorstep, homelessness and housing are in the spotlight.

The Australian Greens have launched their plan to boost Commonwealth funding for homelessness services by $550 million per year over the next ten years.

The Greens say their plan has been fully costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.

Greens Housing spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, launched the policy initiative in the Richmond electorate, alongside Greens candidate Mandy Nolan on Sunday.

Creative Capital founder, Brandon Sau and Fletcher St Cottage manager Jenny Ryan. Photo Tree Faerie.

They met at the Fletcher Street Cottage, which reopened last month in a collaboration between the Byron Community Centre and Creative Capital.

The senator says the Greens’ commitment to funding homelessness services sits alongside the Greens’ commitment to build one million new publicly owned, affordable, accessible, high-quality and sustainable homes over 20 years.

It’s a figure they say will obliterate projected public housing waiting lists.

Ms Faruqi told The Echo, ‘Homelessness services simply can’t keep up with demand for what they provide, day in, day out. Federal funding is manifestly inadequate and must be urgently boosted across the board.

‘A lack of proper support for services means the most vulnerable in our community are left out in the cold, including older women, survivors of domestic violence, First Nations and LGBTQIA+ people, and refugees and migrants.

Deliberate policy choices

‘Homelessness and housing insecurity are not inevitable, but the result of deliberate public policy choices made by governments. It’s time to make a different choice.’

The recent NSW Statewide Street Count conducted in February 2022 found that more than 40 per cent of the 1,207 people counted sleeping rough in NSW were in Northern NSW/New England/Mid North Coast, and concentrated on the North Coast.

Creative Capital founder, Brandon Saul, says that there is a bunch of policy levels, local, state, and federal level that generate homelessness.

‘If wages don’t go up at the same rate as house prices, then you eventually end up with housing stress. Byron Bay has the double problem of Airbnb. 

‘I’ve been to a whole bunch of talkfests – Byron Council are pretty good at that, but nothing ever happens.

‘There’s a steadily growing cohort of hardcore homeless, for want of a better term, and we have women and children living in cars, with jobs, taking the kids to school, going to work, and going back to sleep in a carpark and we live in Byron. It’s just not good enough. 

Byron is the canary

‘Byron is the canary in the gold mine for the whole country. Byron is an example of what happens when all three layers of government aren’t dealing with the root causes of an issue.’

Ms Nolan says witnessing older women being forced into homelessness prompted her move into politics.

‘Women who have worked hard their entire lives and now are forced to live in garages or their cars. I was overwhelmed by their cries for help but could only do so much as an advocate. I can do a lot more from the crossbench.

‘Across the Richmond electorate, there’s nowhere to live and nowhere to go. I’m constantly hearing from people one sleep away from homelessness.

‘They are on the hunt for homes, but those are non-existent. The floods have super-charged the housing crisis. Now it’s a housing disaster.’

‘We ultimately need structural change to address housing affordability. Having a roof over your head is a right; having a dozen investment properties in your portfolio is not.

‘Policy from both parties reward investors over people who want to get their foot in the door.’

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