A DECLINE in affordable housing in Victoria is making it harder for people to make ends meet.
The Peninsula Community Legal Centre says that “a decade ago, 30 per cent of new lettings in Melbourne were considered affordable, today its only 7.6 per cent.”
The centre, which provides free legal services to people in Frankston and on the Mornington Peninsula, says that a rise in the Newstart rate could make things easier for people struggling to pay for housing.
“With the Victorian housing crisis centered on the availability of affordable housing, the urgency to raise the rate of Newstart is becoming pressing. We are seeing the impact of the crisis with 75 per cent of PCLC’s clients on no to low income. Low income being defined as living on less than $26,000 per annum,” they said.
“The rate of Newstart has not risen in real terms for more than two decades, while the cost of living in Australia has increased substantially during this time. Because of the growing gap between those that can afford to live and those that can’t, we are seeing an inevitable increase in the homelessness rate.
“The conditions in a rooming house can be very substandard with problems relating to security and general comfort being very common. While the government argues that Newstart is not intended to be a payment you live on, it does not help if the payment is so low it is impossible to find living arrangements that support you to get yourself back to work.”
The Newstart basic rate is $555 per fortnight. Calls to raise the rate have so far fallen on deaf ears, with the federal government failing to commit to an increase. A controversial proposed trial to drug test welfare recipients has also been discussed recently.
The PCLC provides a rooming house outreach program to help with “building community relationships with service providers in the health, housing, material aid and counselling sectors.” The program covers 17 local government areas and over 800 rooming houses in Victoria’s south-east.
PCLC CEO Jackie Galloway said “we will continue to advocate for the rights of rooming house residents through our rooming house outreach program. In the future, we hope these vulnerable people will be able to afford a home environment that enables them to have the opportunity to escape the entrapment of poverty.”
For more information about PCLC’s free legal services, call 9783 3600 or visit pclc.org.au.