Ballarat affordable housing crisis linked to homelessness

A crisis in affordable housing in Ballarat is causing homelessness to soar. 
PICTURE: Karleen Minney

A crisis in affordable housing in Ballarat is causing homelessness to soar. PICTURE: Karleen Minney

BALLARAT'S affordable housing crisis has been thrown into the spotlight as the deaths of a young homeless couple grips the city.

The deaths of a 27-year-old male and 24-year-old female, found in a station wagon with their dog on, an isolated road in Cardigan, has sent shockwaves across Ballarat. 

Homelessness advocates have pointed to a lack of affordable housing as contributing to the tragic fate of the young couple. 

Council to Homeless Persons policy manager Sarah Toohey said at the end of last year, there were only 12 one-bedroom properties in Ballarat available to low income renters.

"The link between housing affordability and homelessness cannot be underestimated," Ms Toohey said.

"We should be appalled as a community that two young people have nothing but their car for a home in the middle of winter."

According to CHP, almost 800 people remain the public housing waiting list in Ballarat.

CHP data reveals that Ballarat's median rent has soared from $150 in 2006 to $260 per week.

"If you're unemployed, or a single parent on a low income, or have a disability that means you can't work, you'll struggle to find affordable rentals in Ballarat," Ms Toohey said.

She said people are being forced to choose between buying food and paying rent.

Others who are unable to afford the cost of rent are resorting to sleeping in their cars.

In Ballarat, a third of households earn an income below $600, compared to the state average of 25 per cent.

Uniting Care Homeless Response and Housing Program manager Wendy Ferguson said that after rent, residents on Centrelink are left with less than $140 a week to survive.

More than 20 single households accessing Uniting Care services are on the public housing waiting list.

Ms Ferguson said a person on Newstart who receives $250 per week is entitled to just $60 in rent assistance. 

But she raised serious concerns that if the federal government's proposed changes to Newstart are implemented, people will be robbed of more than $50 a week.  

"The bond loan scheme which assists eligible people into private rental allows for the rent to be up to 55 per cent of income. 

"This means that a person can pay up to $170.50 per week rent, leaving less than $140 per week for other essentials including gas, electricity, food and clothes."

In 2014 there have been four reported deaths of people experiencing homelessness in Victoria.

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