Queensland families on brink of homelessness as calls grow for action to address housing crisis
Single mum Cheyenne Stephensen is days away from being homeless with her two young children.
- There have been calls for an increase in social housing funding ahead of the budget on Tuesday
- The state government has built only 326 new social homes this financial year
- Council of Social Service CEO Aimee McVeigh said state funding had failed to keep pace with the housing crisis
The 25-year-old’s rental in Brisbane’s outer-western suburb of One Mile at Ipswich is being sold, so she has to move out by next month.
Despite having a good rental history, she’s been applying for dozens of properties and can’t find a new place within budget on her single-parent Centrelink income.
“I had a selling agent tell me the owners wanted to sell and I literally cried because we’re in the middle of a rental crisis, I can’t work and I have two little kids,” she said.
“Because I get a certain amount of money I can’t use more than 30 per cent for rent, so that puts me between $290 to $300 per week for a rental.
“I’ve applied for places that are like $240 for a little two-bedroom unit but I still get knocked back.
“Basically they’re inundated with multiple people applying.
“People are offering six months in advance and for people who are desperate to get into a home so they’re not homeless, we can’t actually do that.”
Ms Stephensen has an acquired brain injury and can’t work or drive while she recovers.
She’s now planning to move into her dad’s two-bedroom apartment where she’ll sleep on a mattress on the floor with her young kids while the property hunt continues.
The mum of two’s story isn’t unique as Queensland grapples with low private and public rental stock, unaffordable house prices and soaring costs of living.
Real Estate Institute of Queensland CEO Antonia Mercorella said the rental market in Queensland was the tightest on record and there was a perfect storm causing the housing issues.
“We are seeing across all corners of the state vacancy rates are below 1 per cent in many cases.
“In addition to that, the sales market has been performing in such a strong way, which is great news for vendors but very difficult for purchasers, so it’s very challenging conditions at the moment.
“And what we’re also seeing as a result of COVID is housing supplies are going up and builders are very scarce at the moment, so it is somewhat of a perfect storm.”
Social housing build lowest in five years
New figures from the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy reveal the state government has built only 326 new social homes this financial year as of June 12.
That’s just over half of what was built in the previous financial year, with 631 constructions completed in 2020/21.
And it’s the smallest number of homes built in the past five financial years, with 576 social homes built in 2019/20, 612 built in 2018/19 and 576 built in 2017/8.
The data shows a total of 2,721 new social homes have been completed by the state since 2017.
On Friday, in response to questions from the ABC, a spokesperson from the housing department said as of 16 June the state had delivered 391 new social homes this financial year, with up to 438 forecast to be delivered by the end of June.
“The department also exceeded the 2020-21 completion target by 184, resulting from a number of new homes that were delivered earlier than originally planned that would otherwise have been completed in early 2021-22,” the spokesperson said.
“We continue to aim to complete homes as quickly as possible to make these available for Queenslanders in need however the department, like the broader market, is experiencing project delays due to the exceptionally difficult market conditions driven by material and labour supply shortages.”
5,000 social houses needed per year
Ahead of the state budget being handed down on Tuesday, there have been calls from councils, community service and industry bodies for an increase in social housing funding.
Queensland Council of Social Service CEO Aimee McVeigh said state funding had failed to keep pace with the housing crisis, and accelerated construction of social housing was needed.
“We have more than 50,000 people on our social housing register. That has grown by almost 80 per cent in the last four years.
“In the last 20 years, Queensland’s population has grown by about 48 per cent and the Queensland government is saying we’re expecting an additional 1.4 million people into the state in the next decade.
“When you consider those things together it is clear that the type of investment that was made by the state last year needs to be reflected in each state budget.
“We need to be building at least 5,000 houses per year for the next decade funded by both the federal and state government.”
Last year’s state budget outlined a $1.9 billion spend over four years to increase the supply of social housing and upgrade the existing portfolio.
A $1 billion Housing Investment Fund was also set up, with its returns to contribute about $160 million in extra funding over the forward estimates to increase supply.
At the time, Treasurer Cameron Dick said the money would allow the government to accelerate commitments and build 6,365 new homes over four years.
He said between 2017 and 2025, there would be a total of 8,845 homes built.
Shadow Housing Minister Tim Mander said social housing was a state responsibility and there needed to be a larger state spend on new and affordable housing.
“There were grand announcements made last year but the result is that there’s been less than a 1 per cent increase in social housing over that period of time,” he said.
“In the meantime, we’ve had more than 50,000 on the social housing wait list, they aren’t keeping up with the demand.
“Queenslanders that are sleeping in parks, and couch surfing don’t want empty promises, they want houses built and this government isn’t doing that.”