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‘It’s a human rights issue’: Affordable housing a victim of politics

Australia’s two major political parties are offering no solutions to Australia’s affordable housing crisis even with an election just three weeks away, according to a leading social justice organisation.

Mercy Foundation CEO Sue Mowbray said Australia had come under global scrutiny for its lack of affordable housing for disadvantaged groups.

“Australia is a wealthy country, a lucky country; we shouldn’t be having this conversation,” she said.

The Mercy Foundation last month asked the United Nations committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to find that Australia was violating human rights “to housing, an adequate standard of living, and non-discrimination and equality”.

The problem was “a lack of policies rather than any political, logical, or financial inability”, it said.

'It's a human rights issue': Affordable housing a victim of politics

Sue Mowbray, CEO of Mercy Foundation.

The Mercy Foundation’s report of the UN session said the committee asked searching questions about Australia’s policies, and would ask them of Australia’s formal representative when they appeared before the committee.

Ms Mowbray said that, despite the scrutiny, neither of the two major parties had proposed policies to rectify the problem during this election campaign.

“What we would love to see is an investment that builds 50,000 social affordable housing units for the next five years so that we can catch up, but they’re not delivering that at the moment,” she said.

Under the ICESCR treaty, Australia agreed to respect, protect, and fulfil the human right to housing, adequate standard of living, and non-discrimination and equality.

The median house price in Australia passed $1 million this year, the latest Domain House Price Report found.

All but two capital cities hit record prices during the December quarter in 2021 as house prices rose 25.2 per cent nationally, the report showed.

Housing is being treated as an asset when it is “not an investment, it should be a human right,” Ms Mowbray said.

The Mercy Foundation says addressing social issues of disadvantage such as homelessness comes down to working together.

'It's a human rights issue': Affordable housing a victim of politics

Andrew Yule, Jesuit Social Services General Manager Strategic Communications & Engagement.

“All these silos of health, and justice, and housing don’t make sense, they need to work together at a community level to really address homelessness, particularly chronic homelessness,” Ms Mowbray said.

Housing stress and public housing is one of the main indicators of disadvantage shown in the latest Dropping off the Edge report by the Jesuit Social Services.

Andrew Yule, Jesuit Social Services general manager strategic communications & engagement, said communities and location could play a significant role in the experience of disadvantage and the challenges to break free.

“We know that when a location experiences disadvantage on multiple fronts it can be incredibly hard to shift and the new report confirms this,” he said.

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