The Salvation Army welcomes the opportunity to make this submission on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017.
The Salvation Army is one of Australia’s largest providers of social services and programs for the most marginalised and socially excluded individuals. This submission is informed by these experiences and The Salvation Army’s collective knowledge and expertise about the causes, impacts and possible solutions to poverty and disadvantage.
The Salvation Army welcomes practical and legislative initiatives that seek to reduce homelessness and is cautiously supportive of the bill in so far as it may prevent some individuals from needlessly exiting social housing though eviction and being subject to the consequent rotation through homelessness services. However, The Salvation Army also has a number of concerns about the impact of the bill on already vulnerable individuals, and provides a number of comments and recommendations below.
The Salvation Army prefaces these comments by observing that the current failings of social housing are not the result of the inability of a small number of social housing tenants to maintain their rental payments. Rather, many of the more serious issues and failings of social housing are the historic consequences of the lack of investment and planning across taxation, population and housing policy. These have coalesced with the ongoing shifting of funding responsibility between the Commonwealth and the states and territories.
As one of the country’s largest providers of homelessness and housing services, The Salvation Army relies on social housing as a critical exit point for many clients, with public housing remaining the option of last resort for many highly disadvantaged members of the community. Where private rental markets and in many cases community housing providers are unable to accommodate the most complex and vulnerable clients, public housing is often the only housing available to the most disadvantaged.