AN extra 15,800 social and affordable houses will need to be built across Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter in less than two decades to prevent a homelessness crisis, a new housing industry report has warned.
The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report on housing needs of low-income earners also estimates an extra 72,000 new properties are needed in regional NSW by 2036.
The Hunter presently has the state’s largest shortfall of social and affordable housing.
“For me housing is almost the most vital social service that we can provide; it underpins almost everything else,” Compass Housing knowledge manager Professor Dave Adamson said.
“Domestic violence is often a problem associated with poor housing. Housing is a vital factor in children’s education and their future employment prospects.”
The report found that social housing made up about 4 per cent of the Hunter’s housing stock, while the number of households experiencing rental stress was almost 6 per cent.
Report co-author Dr Laurence Troy said the number of public housing units built in Australia had decreased from between 8000 to 14,000 new units a year 40 years ago to minimal construction rates now.
Compounding the loss of social housing stocks across the Lower Hunter is forecast population increase in the region in coming years.
“Quite clearly we have a major crisis on our hands. The federal government has done very little. The state government has done some things but it’s not enough,” Professor Adamson said.
The report’s authors considered the Maitland suburb of Telarah as “benchmark neighbourhood” for its combination of social and private housing and rental accommodation.
Newcastle Greens councillor John Mackenzie, who announced recently that he would run for the seat of Newcastle in next year's federal election, said the Australian housing sector needed a “radical transformation”.
“You have up to 800 people in our city each night who don't know where they're going to be sleeping. It's an intolerable level of uncertainty,” Dr Mackenzie, a social scientist, said.
“We need a renewed investment in public housing the type of which we haven't seen since the post-war investment.
“We need to make sure everyone has access to a house, everybody has the opportunity to apply for and be granted a public house.”
Dr Mackenzie said housing needed to be classified in the same way as schools, medical facilities and other essential public services.
“It's extraordinary that Australia is one of the only OECD countries that doesn't have a minister for housing at a federal level,” he said.
“There's 1900 families in Newcastle on the waiting list to get access to public housing and there's a five- to 10-year wait on average.”