Rising homelessness continues to outpace Australia’s growing population, according to Launch Housing’s Australian Homelessness Monitor 2022 released today.

The study found the average monthly number of people using homelessness services increased by 8 per cent in the four years to 2021-22, double the national population increase over that period.

The Monitor, commissioned by Launch Housing and produced by University of New South Wales (City Futures Research Centre) and University of Queensland, is the first major homelessness analysis spanning the COVID-19 crisis years.

The sudden reductions in street homelessness achieved through 2020 COVID-19 emergency accommodation programs in cities such as Melbourne, provided only temporary respite to the problem. The Monitor has revealed that despite these efforts, homelessness continues to increase and affect a wider spectrum of the population, both in terms of geography and demography.

The Monitor has also found housing affordability stress is the fastest growing cause of homelessness across the country, with the average monthly number of people seeking help for this reason increasing by 27 per cent.

Lead author, Professor Hal Lawson shares “considering that extraordinary pandemic conditions kicked off national rent inflation at levels unseen since 2008, it’s probably not surprising that we’re seeing a spike in housing unaffordability as a cause of homelessness,”

“But, as our report shows, declining rental affordability did not start with COVID-19. In regional Victoria, for example, the proportion of private lettings within reach for low-income renters slumped from 58% in 2017 to just 24% in 2022.”

Professor Pawson said family and domestic violence continues to be the single most common factor prompting contact with homelessness service agencies, which also reflects a pre-pandemic reality.

Youth Projects experienced a 72% increase in new people accessing primary health and homelessness services at The Living Room during the same period, largely due to lack of housing or hotel accommodation and fleeing from family violence.

“Other large but also rapidly-growing groups are people experiencing mental health issues, First Nations people and people aged over 50, which is growing at more than twice the rate of younger age groups,” he said.

The number of females and First Nations people accessing homelessness services at The Living Room continues to increase, with First Nations people making up over a quarter of all clients accessing services. With the recent opening of a dedicated Women’s Lounge, the number of females presenting to The Living Room is steadily increasing to more than 25% of clients.

Launch Housing Chief Impact Officer, Laura Mahoney said these findings reflect the ‘ground level’ experience of Launch Housing as a Specialist Homelessness Services provider.

“In Victoria alone, there are over 60,000 households on the public housing register waiting for a safe and secure home and in the last twelve months Launch Housing saw a 29 per cent increase in people seeking assistance with their rental and bond payments.”

Reflecting that homelessness is largely a system problem, rather than a result of personal challenges, the Monitor echoes the Productivity Commission’s recent conclusion that ‘if governments want to reduce homelessness, they need to address the structural factors that lead to housing unaffordability’.

“It is to be hoped that the Federal Government’s promised National Housing and Homelessness Plan will recognise that our current mode of developing, operating, and commodifying housing produces homelessness, and this system must be overhauled to tackle the problem” said report co-author Professor Cameron Parsell.

To read the full Australian Homelessness Monitor 2022 Report, head to the Launch Housing website.

For all media enquiries, please contact Clare Lawson (Chief Impact Officer, Launch Housing) on 0447 964 899.

About Homelessness Monitor 2022

The Australian Homelessness Monitor 2022 (AHM 2022) is the third report in Launch Housing’s Homelessness Monitor series and covers the period 2018 – 2022. The AHM 2022 undertakes the first major analysis spanning the COVID crisis years and contains in- depth examination of the changes in the scale and nature of housing markets and homelessness in Australia, including the social and economic drivers impacting homelessness. For more information, visit launchhousing.org.au/australianhomelessnessmonitor.

About Launch Housing

Launch Housing is Melbourne’s largest independent Specialist Homelessness Organisations passionately committed to ending homelessness by providing immediate and practical solutions for those who are, or at risk of becoming homeless.

From providing high quality housing to an innovative range of support, education and employment services, we bring solutions to homelessness under one roof for thousands at risk of - or experiencing - the crisis and trauma of homelessness. More at launchhousing.org.au.

About Youth Projects’ homelessness services

Youth Projects provides responsive and timely interventions to open up pathways out of poverty and homelessness, with a primary focus on young people and people experiencing homelessness. The impact we seek enables each person to lead longer lives, have improved health, meaningful employment and a greater sense of belonging, safety, and security through a holistic model of care. Read more about our homelessness services on The Living Room page or read about our impact, in our latest Impact Report.