Housing: a right not a privilege


I tell them "turn on the water"

I tell 'em "turn on the heat"

Tells me "All you ever do is complain"

Then they search the place when I'm not here

But we can, you know we can

Let's lynch the landlord man

— Dead Kennedys

For most young people, moving out of home is a nightmare. Real estate agents and landlords are usually prejudiced against young people, which makes finding a new home very difficult. In Sydney, there is a massive housing crisis, leading to a cut-throat market. When looking for rental accommodation this year, I found even when houses were both run-down and expensive, there was up to 50 people applying for them. Landlords have used the housing crisis to their advantage, pushing up already high rents. A 2007 study by Shelter Australia found that almost 1.2 million households are having to spend more than 30% of their income in housing costs, with over 400,000 spending over 50% of their income on housing.

The shortfall of affordable rental housing for and low and low-moderate income families is 113,000 in NSW alone, vacancy rates are at their lowest levels since the 1980s and the public housing waiting list is still 60,000 in NSW, despite the 2005 tightening of "eligibility criteria".

Massive rent costs, on top of rising food costs, transport and education fees, lead to growing impoverishment for many young people. This can lead to young people living with parents into their 20s, or sleeping on couches or under bridges. Unfortunate reminders of the problem, homeless people were driven away during the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, some put up in temporary accommodation. But as the international visitors evaporated, so did the government's concern for the homeless.

The Shelter Australia study found that 17% of people using homelessness services are Indigenous — the result of racial discrimination in housing.

Housing is a right, not something that should be determined by parasitic landlords and governments. In Cuba, for example, there is a law that a tenant cannot pay more than 10% of his or her income on rent.

The Socialist Alliance has recently put out its housing policy that calls for a large-scale building program to make good quality, environmentally sustainable, affordable public housing. Resistance is supporting the Socialist Alliance in the upcoming federal elections as it is the only party that calls for real change in housing policy and is willing to organise people to change it.

According to Socialist Alliance candidate Tim Dobson, "We live in a wealthy society. There is no excuse for tolerating homelessness or sky-high mortgage repayments and rents. The housing crisis in New South Wales is a mess that can only begin to be solved by boosting public, community and cooperative housing — not only as welfare housing but as a real alternative to the private housing market."

For a copy of the policy, visit <alliance.org>.