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Freemans Springs Caravan Park

Helping people transition from homelessness to hope one step at a time 

Australia's Shame

NSW recorded the largest increase in homelessness of any state or territory between 2011 and 2016.

AAP FactCheck Investigation: Is homelessness growing in NSW and are there 60,000 people waiting for social housing, sometimes for up to 10 years?

The Statement

"In NSW we have a growing homeless population, a social housing waiting list of 60,000 and waiting times of up to 10 years in some areas."

Joanna Quilty, chief executive of the NSW Council of Social Service. June 20, 2019.

The Verdict

True - The checkable claims are all true.

The Analysis

In the lead-up to the NSW March election Premier Gladys Berejiklian committed to halving the number of people sleeping on the streets by 2025. The June state budget was criticised for not providing any funding for this target or committing any funds for any additional social and affordable housing. [1]

NSW Council of Social Service chief executive Joanna Quilty claimed the budget showed the NSW government was not committed to tackling homelessness and disadvantage. AAP FactCheck examined Ms Quilty's claim NSW had a growing homeless population and a social housing waiting list of 60,000 people waiting up to 10 years.

A 2018 NSW parliamentary research report, which analysed Australian Bureau of Statistics data across four censuses, found the number of homeless people in NSW grew from 23,041 to 37,715 between 2001 and 2016. [2]

By 2016, 32 per cent of Australia's homeless population lived in NSW, up from 27 per cent in 2011. NSW also recorded the largest percentage increase in the number of homeless people (37.3 per cent) of any state or territory between 2011 and 2016. [2]

Based on this data AAP FactCheck found Ms Quilty's claim that NSW has a growing homeless population to be true.

Regarding Ms Quilty's claim NSW had a social housing waiting list of 60,000, NSW Department of Family and Community Services data from June 30, 2018 showed there were 52,932 approved applicants on the NSW social housing register, not 60,000. [3]

The NSW Council of Social Service told AAP FactCheck its source for the 60,000 figure came from a NSW Audit Office report published in December 2018. The report contains a chart showing the number of households on the housing register and median waiting times for 2018. The chart confirms Ms Quilty's claim of 60,000. [4]

The NSW Department of Family and Community Services also publishes estimated waiting times for social housing. There are four kinds of social housing available in NSW - a studio or one bedroom, two bedroom, three bedroom, and four or more bedrooms.

As of June 30 last year, three NSW zones - St George in southern Sydney, Fairfield in western Sydney and Wyong on the NSW Central Coast - had waiting times of more than 10 years for any type of property. Several zones also had waiting times of 10 years plus for at least one category of social housing. [3]

AAP FactCheck concludes that Ms Quilty's figures on the social housing waiting list and waiting times of up to 10 years in some areas of NSW are both correct.

The Verdict

True - The checkable claims are all true.

The References

1. 'NSW government forced to intervene to save DV services from cuts', by Lisa Visentin. The Sydney Morning Herald. June 20, 2019:

2. 'Issues Backgrounder: Homelessness in NSW - Electorate Statistics'. NSW Parliamentary Research Service. December 2018 Page 4:

3. 'Housing - Expected waiting times'. NSW Department of Family and Community Services. June 30, 2018:

4. 'Family and Community Services 2018'. Total Households on the Housing Register and Median Wait Times. Audit Office of New South Wales. December 4, 2018:

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles.

Australian Associated Press

Despite steady economic growth in Australia, homelessness increased by 14% between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, with 116,427 people now thought to have no permanent home.

This means that for every 10,000 Australians, 50 are homeless. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which released the data on Wednesday, estimates that more than 43,500 homeless people are under 25.

The Mission Australia chief executive, James Toomey, said the figures were an “international embarrassment” caused by a lack of serious political commitment nationally to building more social housing and affordable homes.

“We cannot afford to ignore this situation any longer,” he said. “Safe and secure housing provides the platform for children to attend school, adults to work, people to be healthy and communities to thrive.”

Migrants were disproportionately affected. While 28.2% of Australians were born overseas, they comprise 46% of the homeless. The elderly too are vulnerable. People aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased to 27 people per 10,000 people in 2016, up from 25 per 10,000 people in 2011.

Guy Johnson, a professor of urban housing and homelessness at RMIT University, said rising housing costs combined with a decline in public and community housing were exacerbating homelessness among the chronically disadvantaged.

“In a country as prosperous as Australia, this is a disturbing and worrying trend,” Johnson said.

“Public housing is particularly effective because it’s affordable and has traditionally offered long-term security for precariously housed people.”

The ABS defines someone as homeless if their current living arrangement is in a dwelling that is inadequate, has no tenure, and does not allow control of and access to space for social relations.

Paul Jelfs, the general manager of population and social statistics at the ABS, said people living in “severely” crowded dwellings – defined as requiring four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there – was the greatest contributor to the national increase in homelessness.

“In 2016, this group accounted for 51,088 people, up from 41,370 in 2011,” he said.

While 2.8% of Australians are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the latest data shows they comprise 20% of the homeless, although this number is continuing to decline.

Overcrowding had driven a 37% increase in the number of homeless people in NSW, according to the chief executive of Homelessness NSW, Katherine McKernan.

“We still have around 60,000 people on the public housing waiting list and less than 1% of private rental properties in greater Sydney and surrounds are affordable for people on low incomes,” she said.

But the NSW social housing minister, Pru Goward, said homelessness was a priority for the NSW government. In the past year, the state government introduced more proactive outreach programs, resulting in 200 people from the inner city being placed in permanent and stable social housing, she said.

In Victoria there had been an 11% increase in homelessness between the two census surveys. Jenny Smith, the chief executive of the Council to Homeless Persons in Victoria, said the crisis was no surprise.

“As a country we’ve failed to tackle the housing affordability crisis, and our homelessness services continue to be chronically underfunded,” Smith said.

“Homelessness is not a lifestyle choice, it reflects systems failure, and most critically, a shortage of affordable housing. In our state budget we’ve called for 14,500 more social housing properties, tripling the commitment already made by the Victorian government. However, without federal government investment in social housing and homelessness support, we’re just bucketing water on the Titanic.”

The Council to Homeless Persons calls for reform of the housing taxation system, an increase to Centrelink incomes, especially the Newstart income, and increased funding of homelessness services.

John Falzon, the chief executive of St Vincent de Paul, said “charities can only do so much”. “It is now time for the federal government to show real leadership and make some brave decisions to end homelessness in our rich country,” he said.

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