The NSW Government launched the Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) earlier this year. The Minister for Social Housing, Brad Hazzard, said “We are rolling out the biggest social housing reforms in 40 years, with more social housing, better social housing and better outcomes for social housing tenants.”
The SAHF commenced with $1.1 billion in invested seed funding to create a long-term steady income stream and address the current and foreseeable shortage of social housing over the next 25 years. Phase 1 of the plan is underway and will deliver an extra 3,000 homes to help support society’s most vulnerable.
This government initiative is welcome news to address the ever increasing issue of homelessness in our society, however, is simply providing homes and necessary services the answer to this issue? As the price of a roof over one’s head becomes a struggle for more and more people, will the government also need to subsidise higher rental costs to assist those who cannot afford a home in their own country?
What is the deeper effect on those who are forced to extend a hand to the government for help? Is there damage to a previously self-sufficient person’s esteem, independence and self-belief? There is a long held taboo in Australian culture about accepting government “hand outs”, but it is likely more people will be forced to do so and will become dependent upon society in some small or large way.
The reasons for finding oneself in a vulnerable economic position are varied. Many have found their way to this circumstance through bankruptcy, physical or mental illness, drug dependence, victims of domestic crimes, or are simply unable to afford life’s expenses. The deeper issue here is the disintegration of families and community that were once always there to extend a hand of support. In many cases, the only hand of support people can rely upon is from the government.
We all need somewhere to live. Housing prices will continue to rise as is evidenced throughout history. The government is assisting with social housing programs, but for mainstream Australians the issue of affordable housing has now become a concern given incomes are out of step with rising house prices. We can expect more pressure to be placed on social housing as a result.
Is the answer to society’s issues around social and affordable housing, in fact, the resurgence of our lost sense of community? Do you know your neighbour? Do you volunteer time to your community? Do you participate in enriching the society you live in? Do you care about increasing homelessness? Will your own children need to stay in your home until they themselves can afford their own dwelling?
Most people experience challenges to achieve affordable housing. Home owners face envy such as baby boomer bashing from those not already on the property ladder, through no fault of their own. And for those saving for their first home, the struggle for a deposit is often discouraging as they watch prices continuing to rise. Those in social housing are labelled society dependent or down and out, when we could offer acceptance without needing to know the reason for their plight in life.
What is the moral strategy for social and affordable housing? By opening our minds to be more inclusive of the issues faced across society we can better understand and empathise with others. We all want the same basic need and that is to have a safe and comfortable place to live.