Women in regional New South Wales are facing a housing crisis with new research revealing more than one in six has been homeless in the past five years.
YWCA National Housing surveyed 1039 women living on low to moderate incomes across regional Australia to determine their access to affordable housing.
The research found 17 per cent of women living in regional NSW reported having been homeless in the past five years and 1 per cent were homeless at the time the study was conducted in late 2019.
In addition, more than one in five NSW research participants (22 per cent) knew of at least one woman who was currently homeless.
YWCA National Housing and Property Development Director Jan Berriman said the Women’s Housing Needs in Regional Australia report revealed higher levels of homelessness than previous studies and statistics.
“One quarter of women who had been homeless, either in the past five years or currently, did not share their situation with any family member or friend, reflecting the likelihood of a much higher level of homelessness than previously understood,” Ms Berriman said.
“This is the first national study of women’s access to housing outside the nation’s capital cities and it clearly shows an urgent need for more safe, secure and affordable accommodation.”
NSW had the highest numbers of regional women who reported they had experienced homelessness in the past five years (17 per cent) and South Australia had the lowest (8 per cent).
The national average was 12 per cent.
The report found many women sacrificed daily essentials to meet their housing payments with 30 per cent reporting they went without meals in the past year and 44 per cent refraining from heating or cooling their homes.
Ms Berriman said the numbers of women experiencing homelessness were expected to increase in the aftermath of bushfires, droughts and pandemics like COVID-19 because housing and jobs would be lost, and rates of domestic and family violence were likely to increase.
“Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women in Australia, and in regional areas the impacts are even more severe because social services and supports may be limited and strained to start with,” she said.
“We need to urgently double and diversify affordable housing options in the regions or face a tsunami of homeless women and children.”
Ms Berriman said the solution lay in finding innovative, commercially sustainable and affordable housing options.
“YWCA National Housing is pioneering novel housing solutions that involve partnerships with private operators and build-to-rent projects that provide eligible tenants with options to buy,” she said.
“But this research demonstrates we need to innovate on a much larger scale to meet demand.
“Government, philanthropic, corporate and community organisations need to partner to create and increase the supply of social and affordable housing options whilst funding housing support services across the country.”
This research was partially funded by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science through the Building Better Regions Fund Community Investments Stream Round 3.
Find the full report here: www.ywcahousing.org.au/research