Australia suffering from hidden housing crisis – UN expert

23 August 2006
Miloon Kothari

Australia is experiencing a serious and hidden national housing crisis, according to a United Nations human rights expert, who has called on the country’s Government to adopt a national housing policy based on human rights and urgently address the “humanitarian tragedy” of the lack of housing and services for indigenous peoples.

During a two-week visit to Australia that ended on 15 August, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing Miloon Kothari visited urban and rural locations in six states, meeting with representatives from both the Government and civil society.

The issues he cited in preliminary observations to Australian authorities include: widespread homelessness, the lack of affordable housing, long waits for dwindling public housing stock and inadequate Government planning for long-term safe housing, particularly in rural areas.

“The problem of affordability and the home-ownership model has left aside all those sections of society that do not have enough means for purchasing their homes and those that face serious discrimination, especially in the private rental housing market,” said a statement released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Mr. Kothari particularly noted the negative impact of the housing situation on women and also expressed concern about poor housing conditions in the indigenous communities he visited. He noted that legislation affecting indigenous peoples’ land rights may have negative impacts on their right to adequate housing.

He pointed to the lack of reliable data on the number of affected people and said he was troubled to learn that some civil society organizations that criticized state policy or advocated on housing issues have been or may be de-funded in the future.

Mr. Kothari’s recommendations included adopting a national housing policy based on human rights, addressing homelessness and its causes as a matter of priority, and giving indigenous peoples a genuine participatory role in their affairs through an independent, well-resourced national body or organ.


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