The Illawarra community is facing a severe social housing shortage, according to a Public Housing report.

The availability of social housing in the Illawarra community is extremely low, with both The Community Housing Trust and the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) witnessing a rise in demand due to the shortage and the current cost-of-living crisis.

The ‘Public Housing Renewal in the Illawarra Region’ report shows that there is a significant shortfall in the allocation of social housing, with about 7,000 dwellings currently available, a number that falls way short of meeting the demand and urgent need for social housing in the region.

Community Engagement Officer, Joanne Reed said families and individuals are struggling to secure a place to live across the Illawarra.

“The typical process for individuals or families to apply for social housing is quite lengthy in the Illawarra area, it involves being on a shared waiting list with the Community Housing Trust and DCJ,” Ms Reed said.

“The average waiting times for individuals or families in the Illawarra region who have applied for social housing ranges from 8 to 10 years.

“It is our opinion that the government should focus on assisting those in genuine need of social housing, as there is a significant gap between the demand and the current level of support.”

Ivory and Pastel Modern Quarterly Report Bar Graph by Emilia campbell

From providing shelter to 18-year-olds without alternatives, to supporting vulnerable 70-year-olds, the Community Housing Trust plays a vital role in accommodating individuals who find themselves in precarious housing situations.

According to Shelter NSW, the Illawarra region has around 50,000 families that are currently on the lengthy waitlist, and over 5000 of these households are classed as a priority.

Within Wollongong central, the NSW government’s Land and Housing is undergoing a notable transformation of a 1950s apartment building into a 54-unit complex that will house 10 social housing units and six affordable housing units.

A study conducted by Living Cost Organisation, shows that the typical expenditure for a family of four residing in the Illawarra area, covering rent, utilities, food, and transportation, is estimated to be around $3317 per month on average.

This analysis sheds light on the financial challenges faced by Illawarra residents, raising concerns about the affordability and accessibility of social housing in the region.

Illawarra resident, Katherine Sheeran is struggling with rising costs in the area and is currently living in a caravan park, as it is cheaper to rent than a studio or a one bedroom apartment.

“It was such a hard decision to move out of the house and downgrade to a caravan, however it was my only way to keep me to keep a roof over my head,” Ms Sheeran said.

“I was struggling to pay the electricity bills, the water bills and even have a proper meal on the table every night, I barely had the bare minimum, but I was appreciative that I had more than other people.

“Normal people just think there is so much support but there isn’t, and the cost of living is only rising and the future is really unknown at this point.”

Pink Payday Budget Pie Chart by Emilia campbell

As the cost of living continues to escalate, the Federal Government has advanced the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill of 2023, aiming to address the housing challenges faced by people across the country.

The Housing Australia Future Fund is a substantial initiative, with a budget of $10 million, dedicated to constructing more than 30,000 new social and affordable housing properties within the initial five years of its implementation.

According to the Parliament of Australia the Bill was passed by the House Representatives on February 15 and is currently before the Senate.

If approved by the Senate, the Bill will mark a significant step forward in the government’s effort to tackle the housing crisis and provide much-needed support to individuals and families struggling with housing affordability.

The Bill will contribute to the broader NSW Public Housing Renewal Plan of 2021.

The NSW plan outlines the strategies and initiatives aimed at revitalising and improving public housing properties across the state, including the Illawarra area, addressing the unique needs and challenges of each community.

Additionally, the study sheds light on frontline workers like Joanne Reed, who are actively addressing the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness or who are in precarious housing situations, due to the insufficient availability of social housing in the Illawarra region.

The City of Wollongong is also grappling with a growing homelessness crisis, with an estimated 1,400 individuals currently struggling to secure shelter and a place to call home.

The Wollongong Homeless Hub helps families and individuals in need of housing support. Donations can be made through the website.

Cleaning Packages for new clients by Emilia campbell

Photo sourced from Wollongong City Council – NSW Government