MEDIA - NOVA for Women and Children CEO, Labor MPs say state funds for new social housing projects fall short

MEDIA - NOVA for Women and Children CEO, Labor MPs say state funds for new social housing projects fall short Main Image

03 November 2020

IMAGE: Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, Nova for Women and Children CEO Kelly Hansen and Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison. Picture: Max McKinney, NEWCASTLE HERALD.

Nova for Women and Children CEO Kelly Hansen was deflated and disappointed at the lack of funding for new public housing in this week's state budget and fears her at capacity service will not be able to handle a rise in homelessness next year.

Ms Hansen joined Labor MPs Tim Crakanthorp and Jodie Harrison at Nova's new base in Charlestown on Friday to respond to the budget, which allocated only $4 million for new housing projects in Ms Harrison's Charlestown electorate and no funds to Newcastle.

The government's $812 million four-year commitment to build hundreds of new homes came in contrast to the Victorian government announcing a $5.3 billion plan to build more than 12,000 public housing units.

After hearing the announcement in Victoria, and also the amount of advocacy thats been done with our state government, we thought there would have been an investment in social housing, Ms Hansen said.

It's terrifying to think what is going to happen in April and May next year. As JobKeeper and JobSeeker decrease, theres going to be more and more people needing shelter, and if we dont invest I dont know what services like mine are going to be able to do around that.

Nova supports women at risk of homelessness, houses women and children who are homeless or in crisis, and provides support to maintain safe accommodation.

We have a suite of services, but were always at full capacity, Ms Hansen said.

We assist those women and children to look for properties out in the private market. That's the only area. Theres no social housing and theres no investment.

Reflecting recent reports about how tight the Hunters rental market is, Ms Hansen said the women and children her organisation helped were often competing with dozens of other prospective tenants and being told to offer more than the advertised rent.

Thats women that are having to choose between food and rent, she said.

Ms Harrison said the NSW Council of Social Service had recently forecast an additional 562 people to be homeless in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie by June 2021.

She said the $4 million allocated in her electorate would fund between 10-18 units, which was way too little for an area with an absolute shortage.

Mr Crakanthorp said the government had sold-off 75 social housing properties in his electorate since 2011, but had not replaced anywhere near that amount.

We've got 2500 people waiting for homes, he said.

This premier is all talk and certainly no walk.


Michelle Collins is one of thousands of people on social housing wait lists across the Hunter.

Having registered for Newcastle and east Lake Macquarie, she will likely be waiting between five and 10 years to be offered a home.

It's ridiculous, she said.

Ms Collins has been on housing waits lists since 2001, at times living in her car or other people's houses.

She said she discovered in 2010 that her documentation and place on a regional wait list had been lost following an upgrade to the department's computer systems.

She was eventually offered and lived in a subsidised rental home under Family and Community Services Start Safely program, which was set up to support people who had left or needed to leave unsafe relationships.

But accepting the subsidy meant she dropped off the social housing wait list.

In the past couple of years, Ms Collins had to leave the home and moved to a private rental in Lake Macquarie.

A subsequent dispute about money owed to the department, which Ms Collins thought had been rectified, meant she wasnt on the list for the past year when she believed she had been.

Ms Collins said she had been informed last month she was back at the start of the general wait list again.

She said her family was struggling to afford their private rental, and starring down the barrel of a five to 10-year wait was a mental and emotional strain.

I'm only one voice and I cant speak for every Australian thats in the exact same boat, but it needs to change, it needs to be looked at, it needs to be rectified, she said of states social housing shortage.

A Communities and Justice spokesman confirmed Ms Collins had been part of the Start Safely program for 19 months and was now on the general wait list. He said the department was not able to comment further.

This article by Max McKinney originally appeared inthe Newcastle Herald on November 20, 2020.