THERE are 20 per cent more people living in crisis situations while waiting for public housing in Ballarat compared with 16 months ago, according to the latest state government figures.
An extra 40 people were added to the early housing waiting list for Ballarat between June 2011 and September 2012, rising from 189 to 229.
But while the increase is significant, overall public housing waiting lists for Ballarat have dropped by more than four per cent during the same period.
The Department of Human Services defines “early housing” as for people who are homeless and receiving support, people with a disability who have significant support needs, and people with special housing needs.
The government claims the figures are simply the result of “re-prioritising” some of the most needy people onto the early housing list to reduce their waiting time.
However, Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight said more people on the fringe were now waiting longer for public accommodation.
“We’ve seen no reduction in that critical crisis area. The concern I have is that there’s no new money in the budget for any new housing and I’m really worried that there isn’t going to be a reduction in the (early housing) figure,” Ms Knight said.
“Anecdotally I’m hearing that it’s really really hard out there and getting harder. There are plenty of cost of living increases, but no genuine attempts are being made to reduce that for people who are really feeling it.”
Minister for Housing Wendy Lovell denied the early housing figures were a sign of more people being in need, but the result of the government “actively managing the list”.
“What we have been doing is working with people who have been on the ‘wait turn’ list the longest to see if they need to be prioritised.
“We have re-prioritised those people in order to see them housed sooner.
“The former government never managed the waiting list, they just left people hanging there, now we’re actively managing the list.”
Ms Lovell said the government had last year acquired 1650 new properties for social housing – which includes public and community housing - and 1150 this year.
“We’re working to develop a new housing framework for public housing ... to ensure that the safety net of social and public housing remains,” she said.