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ac.care calls for affordable housing priority in state election

REGIONAL agency ac.care is calling on South Australians to consider commitments by candidates to addressing the growing housing crisis in regional areas when they vote in the state election this weekend.

The homelessness services provider is seeing an increasing number of people seeking support after rental affordability has diminished and an increasing number of people are being pushed to the brink of homelessness in the wake of COVID-19.

“Various impacts from COVID-19 on the housing market, which has pushed up prices in regional areas and reduced availability of affordable properties for people on low incomes, along with decades of underinvestment in social and affordable housing, which has not kept up with demand, is making it challenging for country people on low incomes to maintain or secure tenancies,” ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks said.

“We are seeing an increasing number of people, including families with young children, approaching our services for support in the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murraylands, but finding a shortage of affordable, emergency and transitional properties making it increasingly difficult to ensure people have safe homes for stability now and to build their lives for the future.”

He said the situation had become so serious with emergency accommodation at capacity in many regions that sometimes offering a tent was the only option available for some clients while ac.care worked with people to help them overcome crises and secure a more sustainable situation.

HOUSING FOCUS: ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks.
HOUSING FOCUS: ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks.

Mr Maddocks said it was concerning to see an increasing number of people who were not among the agency’s traditional client base seeking support to access housing, such as teachers, nurses and other skilled and professional workers hoping to move to the regions, but unable to secure affordable homes for rent.

“We have to focus our services on the most vulnerable people in our community to protect their welfare, but the challenges people relocating for employment are facing is a sign of how tough the market is, making it harder than ever for people reliant on low incomes to afford to rent or move towards home ownership,” he said.

“The issue is affecting an increasing number of people as availability of affordable housing diminishes in regional areas.”

ac.care is calling for greater investment in emergency accommodation, including funding to place more people with nowhere else available in short-term arrangements with motels and other providers for longer where necessary, as well as packages to support innovative solutions, such as developments to specifically meet the needs of vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, and address affordable housing shortages.

The agency is also calling for increased maintenance and expansion of social housing, reduction in stamp duty for property sales and greater funding for drug, alcohol and mental health services, along with increased support for social welfare agencies to help meet growing needs in regional communities.

“We urge voters to ensure housing affordability and availability is an important issue at the election and consider what the parties and candidates are proposing to address this unprecedented situation,” Mr Maddocks said.