Saturday 5 June 2010

The homeless are on the increase - what a surprise

Back in July last year, I dug into a report on the homeless and found a few interesting things. This is again of interest as it is now reported that the number of homeless is on the rise.

I had a look at the homeless situation last year because the government announced plans to reduce our 100,000 homeless by 20% by 2013. That was going to be done by building a few suburbs worth of social housing.

Here are the stats that breakdown the homeless categories (from last year)

  • Boarding houses - 7626 persons, 28% of total
  • SAAP accommodation - 5110 persons, 19%
  • Friends and relatives - 10,923 persons, 40%
  • Sleeping rough - 3715 persons, 13%
Total of 27,374 in NSW, or 104,676 across Australia.

As a quick perusal of any suburb after dark, or even during daylight hours, would show, the number of rough sleepers is surprisingly low. 87% of the "homeless" actually have a roof over their head. It's just that a group of bureaucrats (or members of the homeless-industrial complex) have decided to define some categories of people that sleep in a warm, weatherproof building with hot and cold water etc as "homeless".

How much is the government spending on social housing?

Since the White Paper, the government has announced a further $6.6 billion to be spent on the construction of 20 000 homes for public housing, the largest expansion of public housing for many years.
That's $330,000 per unit.

Here's my take on the whole matter:

  1. Given the disastrous blowout in costs experienced with the BER and Aboriginal housing, it's a reasonable bet that this program is also costing much more than it should. The result will be that either more money is thrown at it, or less units get built. Fewer units would mean a smaller decrease in the number of homeless.
  2. If I was crashing with my brother (as I did at one point in my 20's, making me technically homeless), and I saw some nice new houses being built down the road, I'd have every incentive to declare myself as homeless in order to get myself off my brother's couch and into a nice new home. If you essentially make homelessness an attractive option, more people will become homeless to gather the benefits.
This statement from the Salvos took me by surprise:

"One of the biggest things is still the drought that is causing people to be in really difficult circumstances and to be losing their homes," she said.
Hmm, drought. The impact of the drought would presumably be in rural areas - not Sydney. Many rural towns have been losing people in droves for the last few decades. I visited one such town not long ago and noticed that you could buy a 2 bedroom brick house for under $20,000 - because the population had fallen from 5,000 to under 4,000. Why on earth would the government want to spend $330,000 building new houses in Sydney to accommodate rural people when it could buy existing houses in rural areas for $20,000? Heck, you can buy a 4 bedroom demountable in Wagga for about $50,000 if you want something new and shiny.

Which makes me wonder - if the average cost if $330,000, and we know we can get places cheap in the country - what are these units costing to build in Sydney? $600,000?

That line from Kev from before the last election needs to be reprised:

"Hi, I'm Kevin, and I'm from Queensland, and I'm here to spend all your money".

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