Housing crisis hurting region

AFFORDABLE housing is in crisis on the Northern Rivers, with homelessness a looming possibility for more and more residents, say social service providers.

Figures just released by the Council of Social Service of NSW show New South Wales has nearly 900,000 people or 14.6% of its population living in poverty - more than any other state.

Chief executive officer Tracy Howe said cost-of-living pressures, particularly the cost of housing, was putting extra strain on low-income households.

"It is pushing low-income households to the limit," she said. "The latest figures show 56% of people who are eligible for social housing in NSW are missing out.

"Without a stable roof over your head, trying to find a job, get kids off to school every day or manage with a major health issue becomes almost impossible.

"NSW desperately needs to see a commitment to invest in more housing stock in the long term to ensure people are getting the support they need to get back on their feet and stay there.

"We all need a place to call home and in NSW we can be doing much better to ensure people aren't falling through the cracks because they don't have anywhere to live."

However, Trish Evans of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council said when it came to housing affordability and availability, Northern Rivers people were particularly affected.

"Median incomes in our region are about 69% of NSW median incomes but rental costs can be as high as capital cities. Those housing costs on lower income rates push people into poverty," she said.

There was also less social housing available, with a little more than 4000 out of the total 130,000 dwellings in our region used for that purpose.

"That's 3% of housing stock compared to the state average of 5%," Ms Evans said.

"We also have more than half that number of people on a waiting list and we only find housing for about 260 of them a year."

Ms Evans said while social housing was a State Government responsibility, with funding by the Commonwealth, there was currently a discussion paper that suggested the Commonwealth pull out of the arrangement.

"On top of that, housing that's being built is not affordable and not of the type that people need. Most of our population growth is in one- and two-person households."

She said the 30% of the population who rent would face greater costs and strains to afford housing, especially those looking for home close to their place of work.


Homelessness in Richmond/Tweed region

People in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out 316

In supported accommodation for the homeless 221

Staying temporarily with other households 267

Staying in boarding houses 212

In other temporary lodging 14

Living in 'severely' crowded dwellings 143

SOURCE: 2011 Census, ABS

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