Vacant houses and Airbnb's could be driving an increase in homeless people in some of Sydney’s more desirable real estate areas.
“Vacant dwellings are increasing along the Northern Beaches, this could be from people just buying properties and leaving them vacant," according to Senior researcher and policy officer for Homelessness NSW, Digby Hughes.
"The other thing is Airbnbs,” he said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, the NSW average for unoccupied private dwellings was 10.3 per cent while the Northern Beaches area had 11.2 per cent.
John Kelly, Manager of Northern Beaches Community Council, believes the changing perception of homelessness in Australia has seen a lot of people fall through the gaps.
He was shocked last year by the lack of knowledge among some NSW politicians who he claims put forward the view that: “There wouldn’t be any homeless on the Northern Beaches?”
“I put it this way, if you were homeless where would you rather be homeless?” Mr. Kelly said.
“On a beach, where you have free showers, a quiet place to sleep, you have places like the Northern Beaches Community Centre where you can come every day for a hot coffee, loaf of bread or croissant, we’ll give you shampoo, shaving blades, toothbrushes, toothpaste, clothes and so on… or would you rather be around central station where it is frickin’ miserable, where all the alcohol and drug consumption is and get your head kicked in while you're trying to sleep on the pavement?”
Homeless NSW's Mr. Hughes expects to see more homelessness creep into affluent areas.
“What we don't have in Manly is a crisis service system, which could handle it,” he said.
There is currently nothing available for homeless men in the Northern Beaches region, but there are a couple of places for women and young people.
The State Government is transferring public housing management across to smaller operators in an attempt to better manage the vacant housing issue.
Mr. Kelly explains this process: “Currently, the State might have had to look after 50,000 houses, now they can give 1,000 houses to 50 community housing providers. This is so much easier for them to better manage that chunk than to try to stuff your face and eat the meal in one gulp.”
“NGOs will not only have a better relationship with the tenants and their main ethos should be different from a bureaucrat, who (might not) give a shit.”
“This has people on waiting lists - which is 15 years to get into housing at the moment and if you’re really desperate it is a minimum seven-year wait, which is outrageous when there are thousands of properties vacant.”
Mr. Kelly suggest's that councils and state governments need to work together.
“If you address housing affordability you will address a lot of situations that make people homeless, or couch surfers or living in cars, that’s for sure.”