As more Mid-Western residents become homeless, the social housing system continues to buckle, with years of wait times and next to no affordable options available to alleviate the pressure.
From January 1 to February 16 this year, the Mudgee Barnardos Specialist Housing Service (SHS) assisted 132 individuals, adults and children in the Mid-Western Local Government Area experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
This comes as the Federal Government rejects the recommendation from a Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness to develop a 10-year national strategy to address the growing crisis.
"The Morrison Government's refusal to develop a homelessness strategy is deeply disappointing, not only for our most vulnerable who desperately need assistance, but also to our homelessness services around the country who work so hard to help them," Homelessness Australia Chair, Jenny Smith said.
"Homelessness Australia's data projections show 25,000 new social housing properties per year, as well as the implementation of the Housing First programs needed to sustain those homes and keep people well, would end 275,000 instances of homelessness, and prevent 175,000 more in the 10 years to 2032.
"The Federal Government can and must do more to help end homelessness in Australia."
With a shortage of affordable options, rising rents, and a surge in short-term stay, the ability to offer relief to those experiencing homelessness in the region has become a challenge, according to Barnardos Mudgee program manager, Mark Hoare.
"The Mid-Western Region continues to provide the much sought-after balance of country lifestyle and small town feel with just enough energy and access to services to be a desired place to live. Unfortunately, this brings a double-edged sword to the public and private housing market," Mr Hoare said.
A search on the Airbnb website revealed there are approximately 350 short-stay accommodation sites available across the Mid-Western area, with 281 in Mudgee alone.
"Tourism drives the need for additional Airbnb style get away destinations and financially makes sense for landlords to invest in the housing market this way. However, it forces many once, affordable rental properties out of the market and spins vulnerable families into a desperate cycle of homelessness and disruption," Mr Hoare said.
"Visiting contractors into town also provide property investors with ideal short term and medium-term leasing opportunities, with many corporate companies securing 'crash pads' for the teams of workers at above market rental rates.
"Financially, this cost is too much of a stretch for many of our singles who fall into the lower income earning bracket but have no housing."
Demand for public housing is just as high, with a five to 10 year wait on a one or four plus bedroom property in Mudgee, and a two to five year wait for a two or three bedroom home in the locality.
And with only 16 of the 95 applications listed as a priority as of June 30, 2021, Mr Hoare said the crisis needs to be addressed.
Public housing waitlists are stretched and the priority housing list for people in this space also has the issue of greater numbers than available property stock in order to meet the demand.- Barnardos Mudgee program manager, Mark Hoare
"There are multiple pathways to homelessness, and they all need to be addressed within a person's personal experiences themselves, as well as within the context of our wider community responses and dare I say, responsibilities.
"It is only in this inclusive way that services like Barnardos can operate in order to effectively create positive, measurable and long-term change.
"We desire to see a future where it is possible for families to enjoy a sustainable housing future and a 'breaking out' of people caught up in the cycle of homelessness or at the very least, the continued risk and threat at the loss of a safe and secure place to live and thrive."
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