By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Nearly 10,000 new households are needed in Greater Dandenong to cope with population growth in the next five years, according to homelessness agency Wayss.
On the eve of a Homelessness Week event in Dandenong on 9 August, Wayss chief executive Elizabeth Thomas says the projected 32,000 extra residents will bring yet more pressure on the municipality’s affordable housing shortage.
It comes on top of rising house and rental costs, stagnant incomes and “completely inadequate” Newstart allowances, she says.
In recent census figures, nearly 2000 people were sleeping rough or living in overcrowded conditions in Greater Dandenong.
Alarmingly overcrowded accommodation comes with increased fire and health risks, Ms Thomas says.
“In one recent example we have seen, a family of 10 arrived from interstate to live in Dandenong, only to discover there were already 16 people living in their pre-arranged accommodation.
“The woman and her children were then homeless and has sought assistance from Wayss.”
The situation is causing residents to look further afield for a home, in Casey-Cardinia and Gippsland.
“This is deeply concerning,” Ms Thomas said.
“People are then removed even further from their communities, their extended family and friends, employment opportunities and established support and service networks.”
Ms Thomas called on property investors, governments, community services and businesses to work together for a solution.
“Mandatory inclusionary zoning and other incentive based, voluntary, initiatives for property developers that increase site density and development cost affordability should all be on table for discussion.”
One solution has been offered by not-for-profit HomeGround Real Estate, established by Launch Housing five years ago.
HomeGround manager Simone Curley said one of its aims was to get more private rentals at the low-market rate. It also helped generate income for Launch Housing’s homelessness services, she said.
HomeGround manages 210 tenancies across greater Melbourne. As an incentive, landlords can apply for a tax deduction to help cover the ‘gap’ between the property’s true market value and the low-market rate.
“A lot of our landlords are socially aware. They’re looking at a way to help.”
She says there needs to be more government funding, and more landlords offering their properties for a low rate.
There are vast generalisations and myths associated with why people are homeless, Ms Curley says.
“People think homelessness is just people sleeping rough. It’s a much, much greater issue that that.
“It could be as a result of the loss of employment or an illness. A lot of people are at risk – it’s just a couple of pay cheques away.”
Wayss is collaborating with City of Greater Dandenong to stage the 9 August community event themed as Housing Ends Homelessness.
Launch Housing, Monash Health, Wellsprings for Women, Salvation Army, Springvale Learning and Activity Centre and other agencies will be at the awareness-raising event.
Donations of blankets and non-perishable food will be accepted on the day.
Greater Dandenong is facilitating a consortium of 13 organisations to coordinate material aid to people in need.
The Homelessness Week event is at Harmony Square, Dandenong on 9 August, 11.30am-1.30pm.