Advocates speak out on scapegoating migrants as cause of housing crisis

Advocates speak out on scapegoating migrants as cause of housing crisis
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More than 40 housing organisations have joined forces in expressing their concern over migrants being scapegoated as the primary cause of the housing crisis, calling on the prime minister and opposition leader to show leadership on the issue.

The organisations – which include the Australian Council of Social Services, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia and National Shelter – wrote a letter, saying the housing crisis was caused by poor policy choices by successive governments, including continuous undersupply of social housing and investor tax incentives.

Everybody’s Home spokesperson Maiy Azize, who coordinated the letter, said, “It is nonsense to blame overseas migration as a primary driver of a housing crisis that has been decades in the making.”

“During the COVID era, which had lower migration, rents actually increased more than they did in the preceding decade,” she continued.

The letter references a recent analysis of SQM statistics showing that national asking rent rose up to $84 extra per week during lockdown in COVID as compared to $69 rise per week in the prior decade.

The organisations emphasise in the letter that many Australian industries rely on migrants including essential services such as healthcare, childcare, and construction.

Housing, homelessness and community service organisations are urging the federal government to show leadership in the housing affordability debate and focus on the main driving factors of the housing crisis.

“To make housing affordable again, Australia must tackle the big drivers of this crisis including ending the unfair tax policies that push up the cost of housing and building significantly more social and affordable homes,” said Ms Azize.

“Governments have given handouts to investors, allowed unlimited rent increases, and stopped building homes for the people who need them. That’s why housing is unfair, so unequal and so unaffordable. It’s a distraction to suggest that migrants are to blame,” Ms Azize continued.

“Migrants make a valuable contribution to society and fill workforce shortages. They don’t just create demand for housing, they help build the homes we need.”

Local government supports the campaign

MP Jenny Leong, Member for Newtown and NSW Greens spokesperson for Housing and Homelessness supports the Everybody’s Home campaign and stands in solidarity with the 40 organisations calling upon the federal government.

MP Leong told City Hub, “We know that the real cause of the housing crisis is not migrants.”

“Blaming migrants for the broken housing system both parties have created is racist dog-whistling that does nothing to offer solutions to the crisis that is crushing our communities.”

“We are so pleased to see the strong statement from Everybody’s Home and 40 other signatory organisations calling out this blatant racism and hypocrisy and urging the major parties to do better and finally start implementing solutions.”

Housing organisation shows evidence of the rental crisis

Tenants’ Union NSW, one of the signatories of the campaign, also expressed particular concern over scapegoating migrants as a cause of increased pressure on the renting system.

Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of Tenants’ Union NSW points out evidence suggesting a clear link between vacancy rates and real rents as the primary cause of the housing crisis as opposed to linking population change and rent changes.

“This [connection] is likely because people change their decisions based on how many properties are available. There is strong data that NSW continues to lose people to other states is partly because of the affordability concerns,” Mr Ross said.

During COVID, the rents in inner city Sydney were said to be falling. However, immigration was not the only factor considered then. A total loss of amenity space of inner city living, and significant changes in the medical and economic conditions created a difference as well.

“People were forced or chose to make significant changes to what kind of housing options they were able or willing to take up. It’s those changes that appear to have led to rent falls.”

“There is no easy fix to the problem of the housing crisis, and no one strategy or set of interventions required.”

Mr Ross similarly called on Australian governments to show leadership, saying “Governments across Australia must be brave and ambitious in reforms to our renting laws, to our tax settings, and in investment in public and community housing.”

“Ensuring that we have enough homes for the community, in location, quality, and prices that the community needs are what will resolve the housing and homelessness crisis the country faces,” said Mr Ross.

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