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ESIS Report Shows Affordable Housing Still the Major Hurdle

For the past 5 years, The Salvation Army has conducted a national Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) to better understand the challenges faced by people who come to us for financial assistance. More recently, we've been looking at this data through a Victorian lens to see if there are particular issues that need attention on a statewide basis rather than just those that are common across the country. The Key Findings for Victoria is being released to mark Anti-Poverty Week. Here are some of the results:

The good news is that this year's survey showed small but important improvements in the lives of struggling Victorians. For instance, there was a 5 point increase in the results measured against the Personal Wellbeing Index (44->49), though this is still well below the national average of 75. There were also important improvements in the area of child welfare, which show that Victoria appears to have caught up to the rest of the nation in areas in which it seemed to have fallen behind last year.

However, the main problem is that unaffordable housing is causing serious financial problems and this appears to be getting worse. This year, survey respondents were spending around $200/week on housing (an increase of around 10%), which was almost two-thirds (62%) of their household income - up from 59% last year. Because most respondents were dependent on Commonwealth Government income support payments, such as Newstart Allowance, the increased housing costs were not matched by increased income. This meant that on average, people now only had about $16 a day left to survive on after paying rent.

A few dollars a day less wouldn't make a difference to most of us but it makes a big difference when your starting point is already well below the poverty line. It might mean one less meal, becoming more isolated because you can't afford to go out or being unable to take care of your health properly.

The Salvation Army is waiting on the Victorian Government to release its promised housing affordability package later this year, which we hope will take an ambitious and long term approach to tackling housing costs. However, the Commonwealth Government also needs to take steps to ensure that income support payments are increased and states receive much-needed funding for investment in more social housing.