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Nov 30, 2023

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Giving at Christmas

The National Hotel and St. Patrick’s Community Support Centre held their legendary Long Table Christmas Dinner on Saturday 24th November and raised much-need funds to assist those without a place to call home. A shout-out to Karl and Janine Bullers for their inspiration.

You see evidence of homelessness everywhere every day. I hear that Fremantle has a resident population of about 120 rough sleepers.

Such is the confronting nature of homelessness that some of us opine that those in authority must ‘move them on’, put them elsewhere to make our lives less confronted. But this just locates the problem elsewhere.

Family break-down, domestic and family violence, job-loss, addiction and untreated mental health issues all contribute to homelessness and most of us can’t imagine ever being amongst their number. It has been said we’re all a handful of catastrophic life events away from homelessness. It is not an incurable disease; it is rarely a choice and it can be overcome.

There are dozens of organisations whose sole purpose is to help transition the homeless back into secure, affordable housing. Local heroes like St Pat’s do extraordinarily good work in supporting Fremantle’s homeless. Yet St. Pat’s is constrained by funding, they never have enough beds to house the needy and, amongst many other organisations, can only do so much with their small army of volunteers.

REIWA members, through the Community REInvest program provide financial help to the Salvation Army’s various homeless assistance measures. So far, REIWA agents have donated more than $1,200,000. Local agents, Caporn Young, White House and Dethridge Groves support this program and I encourage other REIWA member agencies to join.

Current government social housing systems mean eligible applicants can wait up to eight years to get into suitable housing. According to various sources, 60,000 households need social and affordable homes in WA, yet despite the overwhelming need for housing, 1 in 6 homes nationally remain underutilised.

The state government has pledged to build 3300 more social homes within the next four year which should help but this is really only playing catch up. There are already 8,000 fewer privately owned investment homes in market now than a year ago.

For every government-supplied home, mum and dad investors supply ten. Part of the solution to finding affordable homes for those on struggle street is to incentivise these modest investors. How about removing stamp duty for those that commit to buying affordable rental properties or guaranteeing attractive rent returns in exchange for providing affordable rents. Perhaps early access to superannuation with guaranteed buy-back at pre-determined returns into the future.

The great work of benevolent groups is laudable, but investors need more encouragement in solving homelessness.