There is no political will to tackle housing crisis in Western Australia

13th February 2017


The latest Productivity Commission report is sobering.  It shows that not only is WA now the worst performing economy in Australia, it seems we are on track to become the worst performing State in the provision of social housing and stemming homelessness.

It is a timely reminder of WA’s poor record when it comes to homelessness and access to social housing.  Put simply: we are failing our most vulnerable West Australians.

We know that there are almost 10 000 people homeless in our state.  Of these, a quarter are children and 3 000 are fleeing domestic violence.

It’s not just a lack of ‘bricks and mortar’, support agencies can’t meet demand.  In 2016 St Vincent de Paul reported that almost 17 000 approaches for assistance were turned away.

Our most recent figures show that there are 23 059 applicants on the waiting list or around 45 000 people.

Wait times to be placed into appropriate housing are long; an average of 3 years for those on the general list and more than a year for those on the priority list. 

Social housing stock has declined steadily from 42 496 in 2012-2013 to 39 969 in 2014-15.  During the last financial year the Housing Authority only built 411 houses. This is woefully inadequate with less than 1% of the need being met. In my south metropolitan region, many social housing units have been demolished, then not replaced.

Undoubtedly statistics are a vital way of keeping track of how we’re going and whether what we’re doing is working (or not).  At the same time it can be easy to gloss over the numbers and to forget what they truly represent: A mum with children escaping domestic violence, a young man with mental health problems affecting his ability to get and keep a job, an older person disconnected from support networks, or a myriad of other complex circumstances.

From my days as a WACOSS housing policy officer coupled with a decade of experience in state politics I’ve charted the aching decline in the availability and affordability of housing. It is clear there is but one thing lacking to stem the tide of homelessness – political will.

The examples of success elsewhere demonstrate we can solve this.

The Greens have listened to advocates and those working on the front line.  They present a clear case for an integrated approach to homelessness because there are a complex array of factors which lead to someone needing social housing. 

It is vital that we have a healthy well-funded community sector that can intervene early and address root causes.  The Greens consistently present the case for a fairer, more equitable society.

We must look to reforming our tax system to make a fairer housing market for all.  At a federal level the Greens' proposal to reform negative gearing and the capital gains discount is based on models proposed by economists including the Reserve Bank of Australia and supported by housing, taxation, and social welfare advocates.

Authorised by Lynn MacLaren © 2017

Hon Lynn MacLaren MLC - Member for South Metropolitan Region Legislative Council, Parliament of Western Australia