The Australian Government recognises that homelessness is an important issue that affects many Australians. It requires a long-term and systematic effort across agencies, sectors, and the community.
While state and territory governments have primary responsibility for housing and homelessness, over the next year the Government will invest more than $6 billion in housing support and homelessness services. This includes around $4.6 billion on Commonwealth Rest Assistance, to assist eligible Australians meet their rental costs. It also includes more than $1.5 billion through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).
Under the NHHA, the Government is improving funding for homelessness by ensuring homelessness funding is now ongoing and indexed. This will result in $125 million from the NHHA being set aside for homelessness services in 2019-20. States and territories will match this funding.
The NHHA also improves accountability as states and territories are required to have publicly available housing and homelessness strategies and contribute to improved data collection and reporting. Homelessness strategies must address a range of priority cohorts listed in the NHHA, and outline reforms or initiatives that contribute to a reduction in the incidence of homelessness.
The NHHA priority homelessness cohorts are women and children affected by family and domestic violence, children and young people, Indigenous Australians, people experiencing repeat homelessness, people exiting institutions and care into homelessness, and older people.
The Government has also committed up to $118 million over five years to the Reconnect program, which assists young people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.
Reconnect provides services to young people to find stable accommodation, improve their relationships with family, find work or to stay at school, and participate in their local community. The aim of the program is to break the cycle of homelessness by providing counselling, group work, mediation and practical support to the whole family.
The Government has committed $78 million for safe places for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence. This includes $60 million for a grants program for eligible organisations to provide new or expanded emergency accommodation. This program could build up to 450 safe places and assist up to 6,500 women and children escaping domestic and family violence per year.
It also includes $18 million to continue supporting states and territories through the Keeping Women Safe in Their Homes program, which provides security updates and safety planning.
In the 2017-18 Budget, the Government also announced a package of initiatives to develop alternative sources of capital for social and affordable housing, this includes:
- $30 million for Social Impact Investment initiatives, of which $10.2 million will be used over 10 years to improve housing and welfare outcomes for young people at risk of homelessness
- $6 million over four years in Homes for Homes, an initiative that encourages property vendors to donate 0.1 per cent of the sale proceeds of their property to fund social and affordable housing projects across Australia. The Commonwealth funding will support development of organisational capability to deliver the Homes for Homes initiative.