This week, Treasurer Jim Chalmers will deliver his second budget, which women-specialist organisations, like YWCA Australia, remain hopeful will prioritise housing options and supports that are responsive to the needs of women.
It is evident, with the latest homelessness Census data revealing a 10 per cent increase in the number of women and girls experiencing homelessness since 2016, that the need for targeted funding and gender-specific strategies to address women’s housing security is reaching a critical tipping point.
Housing Minister Julie Collins recently announced an additional $2 billion in funding for social and affordable rental housing, complementing a raft of measures on the table such as the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF). The $10 billion HAFF, if passed by the Senate, will fund 30,000 social and affordable homes in its first five years, including 4,000 homes for older women and survivors of family and domestic violence.
To do this, the Federal Government must work with women’s specialist organisations to co-design gender responsive housing solutions, such as YWCA Australia’s ground-breaking Women’s Housing Framework – an innovative housing model with guiding principles for best practice approaches to designing, procuring, and operating housing for women.
This Federal Budget must also increase investment in homelessness and housing supports to assist women into housing and to stay housed. This includes increased funding for specialist homelessness services for women to meet the rise in demand, and dedicated funding to ending homelessness approaches such as Housing First.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data has revealed there are 300 unmet requests for Specialist Homelessness Services every day, and most of the unmet demand is from women. These services provide a critical lifeline to women and their families experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and additional funding would ensure they are better resourced and able to respond to more women. This year, the number of women supported by YWCA Australia’s Keeping Women Safe in Their Homes Program, which targets survivors of family and domestic violence, increased 105 per cent when the Northern Territory Government provided additional funding.
In addition to specific investment in gender-responsive housing and homelessness solutions, YWCA Australia support sector-wide calls for a meaningful increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance and back the need for a $2 billion Rapid Response Housing Fund as championed by the Community Housing Industry Association, which would allow community housing providers to bring more homes online, sooner.
This Federal Budget is a chance for the Albanese Government to take further strides to address women’s housing insecurity and homelessness. By investing in and working with women-specialist organisations to design and implement more affordable, sustainable, and secure housing and supports for women, we can create a future where all women have safe and secure homes.