Senate warned of housing 'catastrophe' months before cuts
A SENATE committee was told the "housing affordability crisis" would turn into a "catastrophe" if nothing was done three months before outgoing Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews cut the federal homelessness budget this week.
Homelessness services around the country are in uproar after the Social Services department sent letters to several groups on Monday telling them funding would be cut.
It is understood the cuts included an end to the $5 million a year funding for National Shelter; $260,000 cut from Financial Counselling Australia, as well as cuts to other groups including Homelessness Australia and the Community Housing Federation of Australia; overall reportedly totalling more than $200 million over four years.
While the cuts focus on homelessness grants, funding will continue for legislated programs under the National Affordable Housing Agreement and some services were advised earlier this year grants may be cut.
National Shelter chief executive Adrian Pisarski said the cut was "callous"; describing it as a move to "silence the voices of the vulnerable by reneging on contracts".
While the department did not respond to questions on Tuesday, Mr Pisarski had already told a Senate inquiry into affordable housing about the scale of the problem facing the nation on homelessness and housing affordability.
In a public hearing in September, he told the committee the nation was already in the grip of a "crisis in affordable housing" and if it was not addressed "it will become a catastrophe".
Mr Pisarski said the current housing and tax systems, including tax breaks for property investors was "increasing wealth for those who already have some and it is increasing poverty for people who have nothing or very little".
"It seems to have abandoned its dedication to home ownership as an objective and increasingly we are becoming a nation of renters," he said at the time.
As the Senate committee prepares to present its final report in March, housing will stay on the agenda, with Greens Senator Rachel Siewert pledging to move for a new Senate inquiry into the cuts for homelessness services when parliament resumes.