Monday, October 14, 2013

Anti-Poverty Week 2013

It's Anti-Poverty Week.

At the Brown Couch we see poverty in the context of the housing system, which enriches some while it impoverishes others. Our anti-poverty wish is for the housing system to be governed by a housing policy – we don't currently have one, either at Federal or State levels of government – with the objective of housing all citizens affordably, securely and to appropriate standards, and with housing tenure made a matter of genuine individual choice.

As it is, the kindest thing that can be said is that our housing system is governed instead by retirement incomes policy – and it is a pretty shabby sort of policy, being about transferring wealth to older households who already own property and are approaching retirement looking for a quick super fix.

It's hard on younger property-buying households, from whom wealth is being transferred, because of the debts they'll shoulder longer into their lives, without the assurance of rising asset values – or indeed, rising incomes – in an economy hollowed out of productive capacity because too much of our capital and credit has been sucked up the housing wealth/retirement spending transfer tube.

And it is hard on those households – young and old, but particularly the older households – who don't own property, and who won't in retirement have access to the transfer mechanism that retirement incomes policy is counting on.

That's big picture stuff, and there's lots to do to address it and effect a genuine housing policy. But there are a couple of particular things governments could do now to reduce housing-related poverty:

  • First, the Federal Government could lift the caps on the maximum amounts of Rent Assistance. (ACOSS recommends a $15 per week increase – total cost $500 million.) This is a targeted reform – not an across-the-board increase, but rather an increase for those at the pointiest end of the rental affordability crisis.
  • Second, the NSW State Government could repeal Housing NSW's policies for moderate income rental rates, and reviews as to continuing eligibility, which stop public housing tenants from seeking work, on pain of confiscation of half their earnings and eviction.   

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