Homeless inquiry calls for 10-year plan

Marion RaeAAP
A federal parliamentary committee has backed a national approach to tackling homelessness.
Camera IconA federal parliamentary committee has backed a national approach to tackling homelessness. Credit: AAP

A parliamentary inquiry has backed a 10-year national strategy to ease the housing crisis.

The final report of an 18-month inquiry into homelessness recommends a 10-year "housing first" strategy where all levels of Australian government would work with the private sector and community groups.

"Each night tens of thousands of Australians are without a place to call home," social policy committee chair and Liberal MP Andrew Wallace told parliament on Wednesday.

Many thousands more are at risk of becoming homeless because of relationships breaking down, financial strife, and family and domestic violence.

Mr Wallace said programs such as HomeBuilder, the Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the First Home Super Saver Scheme, Commonwealth rent assistance and the increase to JobSeeker and Youth Allowance welfare payments were all areas where the government was "stepping up".

Housing and homelessness remains the principal responsibility of the states and territories, but the parliamentary committee backs a national approach as the top priority among 35 recommendations.

"We know that homelessness is a national crisis," committee deputy chair and Labor MP Sharon Claydon told parliament.

As rents increase nationwide, more people are experiencing homelessness as they get priced out of the private market.

"Just last year, 10,000 women and children fleeing violence were turned away from our refuges because there weren't enough beds available," Ms Claydon said.

The last national action plan was the The Road Home agenda drawn up in 2008, which called for halving overall homelessness and offering accommodation to all rough sleepers who need it by 2020.

The 2020 goals have not been achieved, the inquiry found.

The latest recommendations include more crisis, emergency and transitional accommodation, better data collection, and new approaches to encourage investment in social and affordable housing.

The local "place-based" approaches of the past are rejected and replaced with a nationwide "housing first" policy.

Mr Wallace said this means housing should be made available to those who need it as an immediate priority and then other needs - security, health and education - can be met.

There could be consequences for public housing tenants who damage property or fall behind in rent.

Government committee members want a "three strikes" policy for those who breach their tenancy obligations.

"It is true that such a policy shift must be approved by the states and territories, however, a housing first principle does not mean housing no matter what," Mr Wallace said.

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