DVNSW Presents at Housing Inquiry

Livia Stanton, Policy and Advocacy Officer

DVNSW welcomed the opportunity to present at the inquiry into Options to improve access to existing and alternate accommodation to address the social housing shortage following a thorough submission process.

Our Policy and Advocacy Officer, Livia Stanton, spoke at the inquiry.

Safe and sustainable housing pathways for women, children and LGBTQIA+ people experiencing gendered violence is a key advocacy priority for Domestic Violence NSW. Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children, with one in two women turned away from refuges. Domestic and family violence is the main reason women and children seek support from Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) – but only three per cent receive the long-term housing they need. The SHS system is overstretched and underfunded, particularly in NSW, where on average 25 requests for assistance go unmet each day. In Australia, almost 8000 women a year return to perpetrators because they have nowhere affordable to live, and over 9,000 women become homeless because of domestic and family violence.

These numbers are too high. Domestic Violence NSW cannot reinforce enough that accessible long term housing pathways remain essential if we are to address the current homelessness crisis, however, we also acknowledge we need interim urgent solutions and although ‘meanwhile use’ accommodation isn’t ideal for the long-term, it offers an important solution in the current housing crisis for women in need. Communal living can provide community and peer supports for isolated women in crisis and can be effective in the initial crisis stage.

As part of our submission, we consulted with Homelessness NSW and Women’s Community Shelters on the flexibility that meanwhile use can offer for people facing homelessness in the midst of the pandemic which has contributed to rising rents and the importance of long-term investment in safe and affordable social housing.

Ultimately, we favour the core and cluster refuge models that offer wrap-around support services, including counselling, childcare, and legal support.

Moving from short-term accommodation into permanent housing is also difficult – and often unachievable – for families experiencing violence. A safe home helps victim-survivors heal, make positive contributions to the economy, and reduces the burden on our social systems. This can only happen if the NSW government invests in safe, affordable social housing to support women and children experiencing homelessness.

Furthermore, migrant women on temporary visas are often ineligible for housing, income support, and Medicare, having to choose between indefinite homelessness with no income or remaining with a violent partner. The government must provide housing support for women on temporary visas experiencing violence.

Another vulnerable cohort, older women, are the fastest growing group experiencing homelessness in Australia, often because of domestic and family violence. On census night in 2016, an estimated 6,866 women over 50 were homeless, representing a 31 per cent increase since 2011. More than half of the 24,000+ older people who sought homelessness support in Australia in 2019/2020 were returning clients. The housing system is clearly failing older people. The only real solution is investment in social housing – the NSW government must deliver 5,000 social housing properties every year for the next 10 years. The government received a higher-than-expected return on investment for social housing stock, which in turn could be invested back into housing to meet increasing demand. In the wake of the pandemic, social housing is vital infrastructure for NSW’s economic security, with proven capacity to create new jobs, kick-start the economy, and address

current social housing shortfall, and most importantly – end the cycle of homelessness for our most vulnerable.

DVNSW advocates for our key recommendations:

  • Invest in the construction of 5,000 social housing properties every year for the next 10 years.
  • Invest $500 million in a comprehensive maintenance program across the NSW social housing portfolio.
  • Invest in social housing for specific marginalised communities including Aboriginal owned housing, people with disabilities, older women, and housing suitable for families and children.
  • Increase funding for Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) by 25%.
  • Ensure refuges are built for purpose, meeting minimum standard guidelines, and managed by high-quality, intersectional feminist organisations.
  • Implement minimum standards and guidelines for meanwhile use accommodation to ensure these properties are safe and fit for purpose, in-line with the existing ASES policy framework.
  • Conduct an audit across NSW to identify and acquire accommodation that may be appropriate for repurposing in consultation with community housing services, DFV services, and peak bodies.
  • Review existing funding mechanisms for community housing, with the objective of identifying the most efficient and sustainable models to deliver social and affordable housing.
  • Introduce streamlined development approvals for community housing providers (CHPs) to fast-track affordable housing projects and reduce planning and delivery costs.

< Back