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Homelessness is caused not by poverty but by wealth

  • 10 August 2021
When you put rising housing costs alongside stagnating wages, an alarming trend in normalising insecure work, persistent unemployment and underemployment, and statutory incomes that are going backwards in real terms, there’s good reason to be deeply worried about an increase in homelessness.

Late last year, Everybody’s Home, the national campaign to end homelessness, commissioned research by Equity Economics, showing that homelessness could surge by 9 per cent this year. In marking Homelessness Week last week, Homelessness Australia released data showing that cuts to social housing funding and homelessness services over the last ten years will soon exceed $1 billion.

At the same time house prices have gone up by 50 per cent and rents by 31 per cent. In fact, a recent Per Capita paper, Generation Stressed: House Prices and the Cost of Living in the 21st century, by Matt Lloyd-Cape, shows that from 1970 to 2000 the cost of owning a home rose by a whopping 130 per cent.

Covid has taught us much about how things really stand. And how they so easily fall! We have learned that yesterday’s relatively secure job can easily become today’s precariously insecure job and today’s insecure job can become tomorrow’s application for a JobSeeker payment. Parallel to this trajectory, of course, today’s mortgage or rental might easily become tomorrow’s default or eviction.

Covid has driven home the interconnectedness of things. We are seeing how there are connections that have previously gone unnoticed, not just between policies, but between ourselves!

You can’t keep society going without working people. We’ve noticed that the people we tend to refer to as ‘essential’ are often actually amongst the lowest paid and the most insecurely employed. We’ve noticed that you can’t do public health if you haven’t ensured that people have safe housing. And that if we can’t expect someone who has just lost their job due to the pandemic to live below the poverty line on JobSeeker, then how can we expect anyone else to?

'Homelessness is caused, not by poverty, but by wealth, especially speculative wealth, concentrated in the hands of the few, to the detriment of the many.' 

We've noticed the gentle ease of a society rich in the kindness of strangers. We’ve noticed that many of the people we’d taken for granted, workers who clean our hospitals, who produce or process or pack or transport our food, who serve us in supermarkets, who nurse us, who teach us, who help