Boom turns to bust as 55,000 wait for public housing in WA

21 October 2010

Soaring housing and living costs in Western Australia are pushing record numbers of people onto the public housing waitlist, despite the state being home to more millionaires per capita than almost anywhere else on the planet.

“55,000 is a worrying number, especially when you consider that the combined state and federal programs have only locked in an extra 4,600 new public dwellings over 4 years up until 2011,” said MLC Lynn MacLaren, Greens WA spokesperson for Housing.

“Successive Governments should have seen this coming. Emergency relief and community services have been groaning under the weight of calls for help,” Ms MacLaren added.

There are currently 24,500 applications on the public housing waiting list. Because many of them are families, this equates to nearly 55,000 people. These families face a 7-8 year waiting period for housing in the Perth metropolitan area.

“It’s not just people with ill-health or a history of chronic unemployment who are needing help. A growing number of working families are getting to the point where they need government assistance just to put a roof over their heads.

“If this is not dealt with swiftly, there will be wide-spread and long-term humanitarian and economic consequences for our society.  We can’t just sweep it under the carpet,” said Ms MacLaren.

A recent report by the University of Canberra found that 20 to 30 per cent of 25-44 year-olds who are experiencing the worst socio-economic disadvantage report having poor health, compared with only 10 per cent of those who are least disadvantaged.

“WA children are also very vulnerable to the impacts of our two-speed economy and the resultant housing shortage. Australia is currently ranked a low 13 out of 19 OECD countries on the UN Human Poverty Index.

“These latest alarming housing waitlist figures for WA don’t give me much confidence that we will do better anytime soon,” added Ms MacLaren.

According to the OECD, 12 % of children in Australia live in households earning under 50% of the median income . In Denmark, and the financially troubled Finland, it is 3% and 4% respectively.

“In the past, most Australians saw Anti-Poverty Week as an event which highlighted problems in other countries. This year, the poverty problem is a bit closer to home,” Ms MacLaren said.

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