“Housing is a human right,” declared advocate Virginia Gawler as she explained the motivation behind Tuesday’s (12 December) rally in Wagga.
“The housing crisis in Australia is the worst in living memory and rallies are happening around Australia that were arranged to coincide with International Human Rights Day on Sunday (10 December).”
Organisers have called on “public housing tenants, renters, homeless people, people with mortgages, unionists and community organisers” to gather outside Wagga’s Visitor Information Centre on Tarcutta Street to “demand action for housing justice”.
Housing stress for middle to low-income earners is defined by the need to spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.
With record-low vacancy rates and spiking rental increases, it’s estimated that more than 640,000 Australian households are experiencing stress, with that number expected to rise over the coming decade.
It’s estimated that Australia’s homelessness rate has doubled in the past three years and according to Homelessness Australia, 52 per cent of people seeking homelessness services report issues with housing or finances, such as the affordability of rent.
This year in Wagga, the rental vacancy rate has hovered around 1 per cent and Regional Development Australia (RDA) Riverina’s latest Land Monitor Report shows that the city is well behind in building enough houses to meet growing demand.
“Rental prices have gone up about 40 per cent over the last five years; the median sale price of a house has gone up about 63 per cent and the price of a vacant block of land has gone up about 62 per cent,” said RDA Riverina researcher Melanie Renkin while releasing to report.
“So those are quite big increases that the consumer needs to find the money for.”
The rallies across the country have also been linked to the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which kicked off in November.
“Women’s economic inequality and domestic violence against women is inextricably linked to this housing crisis,” said Ms Gawler.
“Jasmine Woodland from Anglicare Riverina will be one of our speakers at the event and she said that every day in our region women and children are having to leave a domestic violence situation or family violence situation.
“They have nowhere to go because there is almost nowhere available, let alone affordable.”
According to Homelessness Australia, 28 per cent of those accessing services cite family violence or other violence and abuse as the main reason they need help, and women and children make up 56 per cent of people experiencing homelessness.
Ms Gawler said organisers would be calling for a freeze on rents across the nation, more support and autonomy for First Nations communities, and a focus on public housing.
“We want to see more investment in public housing, not social housing or community housing, because much of public housing in Australia is being sold off by state governments to private providers, which are for-profit corporations, who charge market rents,” she said.
“It’s become a political cliche to say that we just need more affordable and community and social housing, but we need public housing, which is government owned.”
She said housing advocates would also be asking for more support for those continuing to recover from fires and floods.
“This is because of a big push from the residents in Lismore because they were directly affected by the floods, and almost two years later there are still people living in caravans.”
The rally will be held today (Tuesday, 12 December) at 12:45 pm near the Visitor Information Centre on Tarcutta Street.