Unaffordable housing disproportionately impacts women, who on average earn less, and have fewer savings and less superannuation, making it harder to pay rent or a mortgage. This becomes harder for mothers who are sole parents or escaping violence, who often struggle to afford larger houses needed to fit their children. Because of this, women are more reliant on housing assistance and services.
Women are the main users of public, state owned and managed Indigenous housing, and community housing; in 2018–2019, 440,000 women relied on these services. Women also receive 56 per cent of the Commonwealth Rent Assistance paid to individuals and families on very low incomes.
According to the 2020 Specialist Homelessness Services Report, 60 per cent of people accessing specialist homelessness services are women and of the 260 people turned away from services every day, two in three were women. Of those, nearly 9 in 10 were women with children.
Women and children experiencing family and domestic violence make up the largest group of homeless people in Australia. More than 119,200 people experiencing domestic violence – or 41 per cent - sought help from specialist homelessness services in 2019–20. Around 10,000 of these women and children were turned away because there wasn’t a bed.
The fastest growing cohort of homeless Australians are women aged 65 to 74, with the 2016 Census identifying growth of 31 per cent. Around 400,000 women over 45 are at risk of homelessness in Australia.
The Morrison Government has failed to produce a plan to reduce the rising number of older women experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The high cost of housing and a severe shortage of social housing only make this problem worse.
In February 2019, the Australian Government announced $78 million for the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Program, $60 million was allocated to a grants program that aims to expand emergency accommodation for women and children experiencing family violence. It took almost 20 months before the Morrison Government announced the organisation that would receive funding, and to date, construction is yet to commence more than two years after Morrison’s announcement.
The 2021 Budget has once again ignored Australia’s housing and homelessness crisis. Its Family Home Guarantee is minimum help, maximum hype and doesn’t do anywhere near enough.
The housing policy will only assist 10,000 single parents over four years, of the one million single parent families in Australia. That means only one in 400 single parent families will benefit.
The Government said this budget would be all about women’s physical security but they have only committed $12.6 million over three years for crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing family and domestic violence.
Labor has called on the Morrison Government to invest in social and affordable housing. Now is the time to help put a roof over the heads of women experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.