By VERONICA ANASSIS
Bridge Housing has managed to house hundreds of homeless, two years after receiving $100,000 from City of Sydney to boost affordable rental housing.
Since receiving the start-up funding, Bridge Housing launched HomeGround Real Estate in 2018, to meet the shortage of affordable housing in Sydney and end homelessness. One year on, the project is thriving.
The agency is a not-for-profit real estate service, which secured 130 affordable rent properties as part of the Bridge Housing model. Bridge Housing engages landlords to have their properties rented at reduced market rate, or a philanthropic basis. Renting out rooms at a market discount, helps families locked out of the private rental market, secure accommodation.
Since 2017, Bridge Housing grew affordable housing by nearly 100 properties, delivered disability housing to 130 residents, and constructed 158 seniors’ homes in Glebe.
A spokesperson for Bridge Housing said that although major ground has been made, housing price inclines are posing a major challenge for providing safe, permanent housing.
“Despite record numbers of new housing developments, Sydney’s median prices have climbed steadily in recent years” the spokesperson said. “Between 2009 and 2015, less than 10 per cent of dwellings in inner Sydney were affordable for moderate income households, and less than 1 per cent for people on low incomes. The supply of affordable rental properties has continued to fall, particularly in inner Sydney.”
Housing prices have fallen by 10.3 percent in the past year, casting hope that the stifling price rates might improve. But Bridge Housing says the drop is not nearly not enough to bridge the gap for affordable housing, which remains painfully under supplied. JoAnne, a recently placed tenant with HomeGround, admits she was once crippled by the standard private housing options in Sydney.
“Our previous housing experience was in the private housing market which was very expensive, and only seemed to increase every year, unaffordable for myself and my family” she said.
“My reaction when I walked into this home was one of amazement… It’s taken a lot of stress off me. These last 12 months I’ve played catch up in regards with my bills. And I find the whole thing with the reduced rent has helped me achieve that. The future for us is looking very bright.”
Urgent need for housing
Homelessness is a problem in Sydney, and continues to rise. Between 2001 and 2016, the number of homeless people in the city doubled. The rate of homelessness has also increased, currently outstripping the rate of population growth. The City of Sydney’s recent street count revealed that crisis accommodation rose by 16.8 per cent in the past year and homeless crisis shelters are at full capacity. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said this indicates the programs are working, but are merely a short term fix.
“These figures tell us that people experiencing homelessness are seeking help, and know where to find the services that can offer them a bed or a free meal for the night, but these are temporary solutions to a systemic crisis” Ms Moore told City Hub.
“The high level of temporary bed occupancy shows outreach services run by the NSW Government, City of Sydney and non-government organisations were working, but these numbers will remain high without the provision of more stable, long-term affordable and social housing” said Ms Moore.
“To break the cycle of homelessness we need the NSW and Federal governments to fund provide more social and affordable housing in the inner city.”
Bridge Housing contends the demand for affordable housing will continue to rise, with programs like HomeGround the way forward for a solution.
“Sydney will require over 200,000 affordable housing dwellings by 2036 to meet the needs of low and moderate income households” said their spokesperson. “Addressing the incidence of homelessness requires sustained and long-term government investment in new social and affordable housing supply, which has declined as a result of decades of undersupply.”
Bridge Housing successfully tendered for the $10m STEP Program funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. STEP will house 90 rough sleepers over four years in properties sourced from the private market. The Housing First-style model of the project prioritises getting people into housing as quickly as possible, before addressing causes to their homelessness. STEP has already housed over 50 people, with Bridge Housing as its major agent.
Simone Curley, HomeGround Real Estate manager, urges landlords to contribute to low-market rental options, because many more vulnerable people are on the verge of homelessness.
“People think homelessness is just people sleeping rough” said Ms Curley. “It’s a much, much greater issue than that. It could be as a result of the loss of employment or an illness. A lot of people are at risk – it’s just a couple of pay cheques away.”