What will it take to fix Hinkler’s dire housing situation?
REALTORS are receiving up to 40 applications per rental property, as a highly competitive rental market, low employment and high welfare dependency in the Wide Bay creates the perfect melting pot for a housing nightmare.
The Hinkler electorate, which incorporates Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Childers, has the third highest rate of social housing need and homelessness in Queensland and the eighth highest in the nation.
That's according to data released by national housing and homelessness campaign, Everybody's Home, in a move to spread awareness during Homelessness Week 2020.
The data shows regional Queensland has seven of the 20 worst federal electorates in the country for social housing need and homelessness.
Far North Queensland, the Gold Coast, Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast are among Australia's worst affected areas for homelessness and social housing need - even before job losses as a result of COVID-19.
Within Hinkler, there are 600 homeless people on any given night, according to the report.
Flynn, which incorporates areas such as Monto and Gayndah, has a social housing shortfall of 3100 and 800 homeless.
Regional Housing Limited area manager in Bundaberg Hannah Scott said there were a number of issues contributing to the lack of affordable and available homes in the region.
"One of the main issues is that a large proportion of our community are unemployed and or welfare dependant," she said.
"We still have one of the most affordable rental markets, making the private rental market very competitive.
"We have recently received local advice to state that on average, realtors can have up to 40 applications per property."
Ms Scott said with Covid-19, there was an even tougher rental market because people weren't moving house as much.
"We also see a lot of people moving to the region, anticipating more affordable rental options, access to seasonal work and of course our inviting climate and lifestyle," she said.
"This can then sometimes result in people being unable to access housing and or employment (due to demand) and in most cases then unable to financially move on."
Ms Scott said an increase in both social housing and private rental options was undeniably the best solution, but said it wasn't always realistic.
"Our Housing and Specialist Homelessness Services teams here at Regional Housing Limited work tirelessly to support people in achieving sustainable housing outcomes, providing a tailored person centred approach and access to referrals and support options," she said.
"Our team are skilled in providing a connected and collaborative approach to help resource appropriate housing."
Ms Scott said it was important to raise awareness in the community to help remove the stigma that homelessness can create.
She said it was important to understand that there are traumas that can lead to homelessness as well as trauma experienced as a result of homelessness.
"One thing we have found since the pandemic, is that homelessness does not discriminate and people need to know where to turn when in need," Ms Scott said.
As part of Homelessness Week, Homelessness Australia and Everybody's Home are calling on all federal MPs to sign a social housing pledge committing to investment in social housing to help end homelessness, and also deliver jobs.
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said housing and homelessness were primarily state responsibilities.
"While the State Government is primarily responsible for housing and homelessness, the Australian Government provides assistance and support through a number of programs," he said.
"More than $4.6 billion is provided in rent assistance to help eligible people pay their rent, and this is in addition to funding provided through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to states and territories, with Queensland receiving $326.6 million under this agreement in 2020-21.
"Locally, the Coalition Government has provided $1,025,458 to Reconnect Fraser Coast which works with young people aged 12-18 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The service provides counselling, family mediation and practical support to find accommodation to young people and their families.
"The National Housing Infrastructure Facility was established to help unlock new housing supply, including social housing, and additional funding has been committed for domestic violence housing services to build emergency accommodation."
Chair of Homelessness Australia Jenny Smith said she believed at least part of the answer to both homelessness and job creation could be found in combining the two.
A coalition of housing advocacy groups has developed the Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP).
The group details how building 30,000 social homes over the next four years would create up to 18,000 jobs per year while combating homelessness.
"The growth in unemployment as a consequence of COVID-19 and cuts to social security payments will drive further increases in homelessness," Ms Smith said.
"By investing in social housing, the government will not only give more people a home but will also keep more people in a job.
"We have more than 300 member organisations that will be meeting with their local MPs to discuss the numbers in their electorates and how they can support the call for urgent investment in social housing."
People facing crisis in housing can access the Regional Housing service via email@example.com or 1300 642 123 or visit the website www.regionalhousing.org.au.