dirty homeless hands beg
Source: Canva. It’s been tough for many to keep a roof over their heads, the issue a hot topic in the WA elections.
  • Only one policy on homelessness put forward by WA Labor back in December last year
  • WA Liberals policy on homelessness released in February but not costed
  • Corporates and not-for-profits step in instead

The housing crisis has made headlines over the past few weeks with the tent city in Fremantle and controversy over temporary housing in a Perth City hostel.

It’s gripped the attention of Perth, The Guardian reporting it as “the WA election issue Mark McGowan can’t shake off”.

WA Labor

The only announcement that has been made to date on homelessness was made back in December 2020, the following measures were part of that announcement:

  • $6 million to partner and co-fund short-term homelessness projects,
  • $39.3 million for a new Aboriginal short stay accommodation facility in Perth, and
  • $3.65 million to fund and expand the Street Doctor Program for more bulk-billed mobile clinics.

That amounts to $48.95M committed to the most vulnerable in our community.

It was also reported by local publication perthnow, that a potential $14M leasing deal for the Perth City YHA on Wellington Street fell through earlier in February.

Little else has been said about housing and homelessness policy, the exception being 31 January 2021 when a statement from Commerce Minister, John Quigley, was released.

The Commerce Minister said further extensions were being made to the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme, the move aimed to “reduce evictions and large rent increases after March 28, 2021,”; this is part of the fourth phase of the rent grant scheme.

WA Liberals

The Liberal Party of WA has released a number of policies including a $57.5M commitment towards homeless Western Australians.

Liberals leader Zak Kirkup says the WA Liberals will secure 500 beds, Shadow Minister for Tony Krsticevic saying the WA Liberals plan to build 4,600 housing to tackle the issue.

The political spin

It comes with the territory – but what’s being said?

Shadow Minister for Housing Tony Krsticevic said in a statement “Labor should be embarrassed by their token commitment of $3.8 million for the homeless,” but when delving into history, that might not be such a bad thing.

A State Government spokesperson told The Property Tribune:

“The Liberals and Nationals allowed public housing to fall into a state of disrepair leaving many houses uninhabitable, which is why we’ve had to have such a significant program of refurbishment.”

The spokesperson went on to say waiting lists were out of control when the Liberals were last in power, and the McGowan Government has invested more than $3B towards affordable housing and homelessness since coming to government in 2017.

Mr Krstivcevic also said, “tenants housed by the not-for-profit sector will now be eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance of up to $185 per fortnight, which can be invested in maintenance and save tax-payers money.”

The Property Tribune asked Curtin University’s Professor Steven Rowley from the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance about the Liberal’s claim that it would save the tax-payers purse.

Professor Rowley said it’s not a new idea and has become more common “as many state governments have decided new public housing is too expensive to provide,”.

Mr Krstivcevic’s claim is indeed correct, but Professor Rowley also noted that “… tenants in public housing cannot claim CRA so the rent received by state housing providers is lower that received by not for profit providers for equivalent dwellings. This means the rent gap (effectively the public subsidy) on public housing is higher than not for profit provided housing.  This is one of the advantages of transferring public housing to the not for profit sector as more rent is payable to help cover maintenance and leverage additional funding.”

Corporate aid

St George’s Terrace has come to the aid of Western Australia’s homeless, Brookfield Properties one of the companies recently announcing assistance.

The company announced this month, fundraising efforts of over $50,000, for Ruah Community Services, a community services provider in Western Australia.

So far the company has secured $22,000 to go towards “… improving facilities at the organisation’s [Ruah Community Services] Aboriginal Women’s Refuge, Kambarang Place, which provides services to Aboriginal women escaping domestic violence.”

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