A study of women's access to housing in regional areas shows an urgent need for more safe, secure and affordable accommodation.
Women's housing organisation YWCA National Housing surveyed 1000 women living on low to moderate incomes across regional Australia.
The research report reveals one in seven women in regional Victoria has been homeless in the past five years.
More than one in six Victorian research participants (17 per cent) knew of at least one woman who was currently homeless.
We need to urgently double and diversify affordable housing options in the regions or face a tsunami of homeless women and children.Jan Berriman, YWCA National Housing
YWCA National Housing and Property Development Director Jan Berriman it was likely the number of women experiencing homelessness was higher than previously understood.
One quarter of women who had been homeless, either in the past five years or currently, did not share their situation with any family member or friend.
"This study clearly shows an urgent need for more safe, secure and affordable accommodation," Ms Berriman said.
The report found many women sacrificed daily essentials to meet their housing payments with 30 per cent reporting they went without meals in the past year and 44 per cent refraining from heating or cooling their homes.
Ms Berriman said the number of women experiencing homelessness was expected to increase in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic due to housing and job losses and increased rates of family violence.
"Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women in Australia, and in regional areas the impacts are even more severe because social services and supports may be limited and strained to start with," she said.
"We need to urgently double and diversify affordable housing options in the regions or face a tsunami of homeless women and children."
Ms Berriman said the solution lay in the public and private sectors working together on innovative, commercially sustainable and affordable housing options.
YWCA National Housing partners with private operators and build-to-rent projects that provide eligible tenants with options to buy.
Build-to-rent projects are different from traditional rental in that a large number of rented units are owned by a single landlord or institution and buildings are designed for long-term renting.
It is an emerging market in Australia and is seen to provide an attractive option for people who are unable or unwilling to own a home.
"This research demonstrates we need to innovate on a much larger scale to meet demand," Ms Berriman said.
"Government, philanthropic, corporate and community organisations need to partner to create and increase the supply of social and affordable housing options whilst funding housing support services across the country."
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