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New South Wales News

Cost of living: more low-income households face the prospect of homelessness

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NSW Northern Rivers Breaking News

Cost of living: more low-income households face the prospect of homelessness

While we wait for a national housing plan, inflation threatens to squeeze more households out of their homes and onto the streets.

Households are feeling the pinch from the rising cost of living. But while the price of electricity, groceries and petrol are causing concerns, perhaps the most significant rising cost is housing.

Dr Andrew Clarke from the School of Social SciencesUNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, says more low-income households are at risk of becoming homeless as they find themselves priced out of an increasingly competitive private rental market.

“Internal migration to regional areas during the pandemic has seen low vacancy rates and skyrocketing asking prices in the private rental market there. Meanwhile, stagnant levels of affordable housing development in capital cities have failed to keep up with population growth, let alone rising need,” Dr Clarke says.

The new federal government has recently committed to developing a national plan to address housing insecurity and homelessness. But while an encouraging signal of intent, its value will ultimately depend on how much emphasis it places on new investment in social and affordable housing.

“We’ve seen lots of practice innovations in the homelessness sector over the last decade. However, without any real increase in the supply of social housing, these have not been able to make much of an impact,” Dr Clarke says. “The new plan can’t just be about changing up how homelessness services operate. It has to provide a housing-centred solution to the worsening housing crisis.”

In the meantime, there is plenty governments can do to help vulnerable people affected by rising rents and other necessities whilst the plan is being developed.

“The pandemic had a unique set of circumstances where governments used empty hotels and student facilities to accommodate homeless people in a public health emergency. But what that showed is that we can move quickly on the issue if we choose,” Dr Clarke says.

Homelessness amidst rising living costs

At the 2016 Census, there were 116,000 people who reported they were homeless – a 14 per cent increase from the previous Census. Dr Clarke suggests those figures would be a conservative estimate today, given current economic conditions and that homelessness data is challenging to gather at the best of times.

“We don’t have great data to measure the scale of homelessness in Australia as it’s hard to compile,” Dr Clarke says. “But we would expect to see that upward trajectory continue when we get the 2021 Census data, given the housing market impacts of the pandemic.”

Dr Clarke says service providers are reporting more people finding themselves homeless for the first time, like people working low-paid jobs.

“We’re hearing from social services providers that new cohorts that don’t typically experience homelessness at the same scale are finding themselves unable to secure or sustain housing,” he says.

The largest group affected by rising living costs are those on fixed incomes, such as government support payments, many of which are below the poverty line, according to Dr Clarke.

“Payments are fixed and indexed at a rate far below what you need to survive even before this inflationary moment. Despite the recent small increase in the JobSeeker Payment, people on those incomes will struggle the most in the context of rising living costs.”

Addressing homelessness in the interim

During the pandemic, there were unprecedented support measures for homeless people or those at risk of homelessness, including temporary eviction moratoriumsincreases in government support payments and large-scale transitional accommodation initiatives, like NSW’s Together Home program. Dr Clarke says we need to revisit similar measures or risk more households slipping into homelessness.

“Government could re-engage and expand some of those programs for those people currently impacted by rising rents and other basic living costs,” Dr Clarke says.

Longer term, the lack of social housing remains a significant barrier to addressing homelessness at scale. But transitional head-leasing – where governments fund homelessness service providers to sublease a property from the private rental market to households – could be a temporary solution.

“It wouldn’t solve the shortage of social housing in the long-term, but as a transitional solution, it could be viable,” Dr Clarke says.

An immediate increase in unemployment benefits would also help to ease the cost-of-living pressures in the interim for households at risk of homelessness, Dr Clarke says.

“Research continually shows how inadequate those payments are and their impact on people, undermining their ability to meet rent and forcing them to rely on charity to meet basic needs.

“It’s important to recognise that if we hope to address other social issues, it has to start with everyone having a safe, secure and affordable place to live.”

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Local News

Crowdy Head community heard on boat harbour design

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Crowdy Head

Crowdy Head community heard on boat harbour design

 

Boaters along the Mid North Coast will soon enjoy better access to Crowdy Head, as Transport for NSW moves forward with a major upgrade of the boat harbour.

Transport for NSW has listened to feedback from the Crowdy Head community, following a five-week consultation period, which included two community information sessions about the proposed improvements to the harbour.

The upgrade will now increase the dredging area to take into consideration the area near the boat ramp and has increased the structural capacity of the pontoon system.

Executive Director for NSW Maritime Mark Hutchings thanked locals for sharing their opinion on the significant upgrade work.

“The community feedback showed there is strong demand for a fishing platform to replace the second jetty and we are now exploring additional funding options to make this a reality.”

Crowdy Head

Boaters along the Mid North Coast will soon enjoy better access to Crowdy Head, as Transport for NSW moves forward with a major upgrade of the boat harbour.

“We’ve also taken on board concerns about the floating platform in surge conditions by undertaking a detailed engineering study and updating some structural details.”

The project will see the demolition of both jetties, replaced with heavy duty floating pontoons with 18 berths of various sizes, one temporary berth, and water and electricity to each berth.

“A safe and accessible boat harbour is an important asset to the mid-north coast community and I look forward to starting work on this valuable upgrade.”

Pending final approvals, construction is expected to commence mid to late 2024. Transport for NSW will update the community ahead of work commencing.

For more New South Whales news, click here.

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Local News

Engaging Diverse Voices in Regional NSW: Opportunities with Multicultural NSW

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Multicultural NSW is seeking advisory positions for residents across NSW

Engaging Diverse Voices in Regional NSW: Opportunities with Multicultural NSW

 

Multicultural NSW is inviting residents from Northern NSW and New England North West regions who are deeply connected to their communities to provide valuable advice to the NSW Government through various advisory functions.

Expressions of interest are sought for three distinct advisory functions, with a strong emphasis on reflecting the rich diversity of NSW in terms of gender, age, geographic location, cultural background, and inclusion of people living with disabilities. Successful candidates will be appointed by the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, Steve Kamper MP.

Member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin, is encouraging interested local residents to submit their expressions of interest by the closing date of Sunday, February 18, 2024.

Advisory Board – Multicultural NSW

Multicultural NSW is currently seeking expressions of interest for Advisory Board members who come from diverse backgrounds, possess deep community ties, and exhibit cross-cultural understanding and community leadership. Advisory Board members will leverage their skills, expertise, and lived experiences to amplify the voices of their communities, informing the initiatives of Multicultural NSW. The current Advisory Board Chairperson is former NSW Police Deputy Commissioner, Nick Kaldas APM.

Multicultural NSW is seeking advisory positions for residents across NSW

Multicultural NSW is seeking advisory positions for residents across NSW

Regional Community Networks (RCNs) and Multicultural Youth Network (MYN)

Additionally, Multicultural NSW is seeking expressions of interest for two state-wide community engagement programs: the Regional Community Networks (RCNs) and the Multicultural Youth Network (MYN). The RCNs will consist of 10 networks across NSW, each with up to 20 members. RCN members will provide invaluable insights into local issues affecting their lives and communities. Furthermore, each RCN will include at least one representative from the local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community.

Three RCNs will be situated in the Greater Sydney area, namely North and East Sydney, Western Sydney, and South Sydney. The remaining seven RCNs will be based in various regional areas of NSW, including Northern NSW, New England North West, Western NSW, Illawarra and South East NSW, Hunter and Central Coast, Murray Lower Darling, and Riverina.

Each RCN will also feature up to three young people aged 18-24 years, who will additionally form the Multicultural Youth Network (MYN). MYN members will convene regularly to provide insights and advice on issues pertinent to young people across the state.

For further information and to submit expressions of interest, please visit the Advisory Positions page on the Multicultural NSW website.

 

For more New South Whales news, click here.

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Local News

MINNS LABOR GOVERNMENT PUTS REGIONAL MANUFACTURER ON THE LINE

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Express Coach Builders TfNSW

MINNS LABOR GOVERNMENT PUTS REGIONAL MANUFACTURER ON THE LINE

 

By Sam Farraway

A local bus manufacturer on the Mid North Coast may be forced to close taking with it 44 regional jobs after Transport for NSW (TfNSW) failed to finalise the approved manufacturers list under the new guidelines.

The TfNSW Bus Procurement Panel 4 was expected to be released by TfNSW last year with tenders closing in early April 2023. With the list still yet to be released in 2024, local bus manufacturers are left without any orders in the pipeline.

NSW Shadow Minister for Regional Roads and Transport Sam Farraway is demanding answers from Transport Minister Jo Haylen and Minister for Regional Roads and Transport Jenny Aitchison on the delay.

Express Coach Builders have been manufacturing our state’s school buses for 28 years. Now they face closing their doors for good because of government inaction despite an estimated 97 school buses in need of replacement across regional NSW,” said Mr Farraway.

“The Minns Labor Government promised to ‘build things here’ and said ‘NSW deserves a government that backs Australian made and that will buy Australian made’ – yet only 10 months in and this government is breaking that promise, proving they are all talk and no action.”

Member for Oxley Michael Kemp said it was a slap in the face from a government who promised to revive local manufacturing in NSW.

Express Coach Builders TfNSW

Express Coach Builders

“Express is the second largest private employer in Macksville, which already has higher than average unemployment. If they shut down and take away our jobs, it will absolutely kill our region,” Mr Kemp said.

“I met Minister Haylen last year and she assured me personally that Express and other manufacturers would have the Panel Four list before Christmas, with regional builds on that list. Now, we’re facing major job losses, with outdated school buses still on the road amidst post-flood damage and cuts to road funding.

I extend an invitation to both ministers and the Premier to come up and meet with Express and give the business, their staff and their families confirmation that new orders are in the pipeline.”

Director of Express Coach Builders Mr Mark Forster said he was disappointed the business may have to close after 28 years of service to the community and providing opportunities to more than 100 apprentices and trainees.

“It’s terribly sad to put your heart and soul into something you love for it to be potentially taken away because the government and their agencies can’t sort out a procurement process,” Mr Forster said.

“Both ministers have the power to intervene and get the Panel four list out or at least offer relief to manufacturers to stay afloat.

“I had to lay off staff just before Christmas – no employer wants to do that. I don’t want to start the new year with more, so I’m pleading with the government to step up and fix it.”

 

For more New South Whales news, click here.

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