Housing is a basic human right, but under neoliberal capitalism it has become a privilege enjoyed by fewer and fewer people.
While more and more people are experiencing homelessness, rental stress and defaulting on their mortgages, the richest Australians are getting richer. In more and more cases, their property portfolios have become the sole source of wealth for Australia’s super rich and, in 2015, the property industry accounted for 11.5% of GDP.
New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that the number of people who are homeless in New South Wales has grown by more than one-third in the five years since the last census. In NSW, 37,715 people reported being homeless on census night.
According to Homelessness NSW, the waiting list for public housing in NSW now runs to 60,000 people.
Earlier this year, analysis by the parliamentary library (commissioned by NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon) showed that profit margins in the real estate sector are at record highs. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jan/31/real-estate-rich-list-grows-as-australias-wealthiest-reap-property-profits
The analysis also showed that state governments are reaping huge windfalls from stamp duty. In NSW, revenue from land transfer-related taxes, such as stamp duty, has increased by almost $1 billion every year since 2012–13. In 2015–16, the NSW state government earned $6.45 billion on 207,463 separate land transfer-related transactions.
Yet these huge windfalls are not being ploughed back into building more public housing — which would easily solve the homelessness crisis and start to address the unbridled profiteering by landlords, overcrowded accommodation and lack of affordable and accessible housing.
The number of homeless people who are sleeping rough in the centre of the city I now call home in Sydney’s west is disturbing. A few weeks after relocating, I realised there is a woman around my age living out of her car in my neighbourhood. I see her occasionally as I’m out walking, her possessions piled up inside her little hatchback.
Housing can be liberated from the market and restored to its role as providing every person with the right to shelter, security and quality of life. But it is going to take a movement of people to win this.
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