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‘Nowhere near enough’: Salvos working to address ‘horrifying’ housing crisis

(From left) Chris Karagiannis, Bethany Critchley, Andrew McCutchan, Mark Gray, Major Mark Kop and Major Paul Hateley at the launch of the new dwellings in Ingle Farm, South Australia, on 16 April.



It has become all but impossible for an Australian on a low income to find a rental property they can afford, according to new statistics from Anglicare Australia.

The yearly Rental Affordability Snapshot released on 23 April shows that only 0.2 per cent of houses in Australia are affordable for retirees living on the aged pension, a figure which has halved since 2023.

With the Federal Budget set to be delivered this week, housing is a hot-button issue for not only those struggling to cover rent or pay a mortgage but also those sleeping rough or facing unstable housing.

Salvation Army Housing manages 1800 properties across Australia and houses approximately 3000 people every night.

Street view of a terrace of three Salvos Housing units in Ingle Farm, South Australia.

The Salvation Army recently opened six new dwellings in Ingle Farm, South Australia, as well as 10 crisis accommodation units for women and their children fleeing domestic violence in Palmerston, Northern Territory.

For a single parent living on the minimum wage, Anglicare’s data shows 98 per cent of rentals are unaffordable.

In its report, Anglicare Australia describes the reality of housing affordability in Australia as “horrifying”, “unfair and unjust”, “the worst it has ever been” and part of the “design” of successive governments that have continued offering tax incentives to housing investors.

Salvation Army Housing Chief Executive Chris Karagiannis said between the cost of private rentals, the lack of rentals available and the shortage of social and public housing, there was a perfect storm leading to poverty and homelessness.

“It’s very, very challenging for many people,” he said. “They’re spending up to 70 or 80 per cent of their income on rent, which means that they’re having to go without in terms of food, medication [and] day to day staples. There’s very minimal or no scope for any luxuries. And when we talk about luxuries, we’re talking about a cup of coffee or catching up with friends for breakfast or being able to go out.”

Chris said many clients of Salvos Housing were couch surfing, living in their cars or worse. He said with rising domestic and family violence statistics, potential loss of employment or alcohol or drug abuse, being unable to access safe and secure accommodation could prevent someone from making other necessary life changes.

“We strongly believe that housing is a human right,” Chris said. “Everyone should be entitled to safe and secure accommodation.”

As of this article’s writing, 28 women had been killed across Australia due to violence in 2024, according to Counting Dead Women. Recent data from the Australian Institute of Criminology showed a 28 per cent increase in deaths of women due to intimate partner violence in the period between 2021 and 2023.

Chris said one of the largest groups The Salvation Army was currently assisting was older women on a single pension.

In 2021, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare identified the rate of homelessness among women over 55 as having grown 40 per cent in the 10-year period from 2011 to 2021.

“It’s absolutely soul-crushing ... people are waiting 10 years plus to access housing. We’re nowhere near [having] enough.”

The Salvation Army last year unveiled a new community housing complex in Moonah, Tasmania, to accommodate women over the age of 55 who were experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Chris said one of the women who now lives in the complex, Gayle, had been spending 80 per cent of her income on a private rental and had not turned on her heater in three years to save money.

Now that her rent in The Salvation Army Moonah housing complex was costing less than 30 per cent of her pension, she could not only turn on the heater, but she could also go out with friends, buy books and new clothes.

“Her friend has told her that the sparkle has come back in her eyes, and her doctor has actually taken her off some medications because her frame of mind and her mental health [have] improved so much,” Chris said.

Chris said despite both state and national pushes to increase public housing stock, there were still approximately 180,000 people currently on housing waitlists across the country.

“It’s absolutely soul-crushing,” he said. “People are waiting 10 years plus to access housing. We’re nowhere near [having] enough.”

Chris said additional to the recently opened units in South Australia and the Northern Territory, there were active projects in Queensland and New South Wales.

The Salvation Army has also made submissions to receive funding through the national Housing Australia Future Fund, has received funding from the Victorian Government through the Big Housing Build and has made submissions in most other states. Chris said they were currently exploring funding options in Western Australia.

The 2024-25 Federal Budget is set to deliver $11.3 billion in funding for housing, according to preliminary data from Ernst & Young.

The Salvation Army Australia assists someone in need every 17 seconds.

Australian housing affordability is the worst it has ever been, according to a new report from Anglicare Australia. TSA is seeking to address the rapidly increasing need for housing with new social projects opening across the country while still assisting those sleeping rough.



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