Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA) thanks the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs for the opportunity to provide a submission on the worsening rental crisis in Australia. Our submission focuses on the impact of the rental crisis, and the lack of affordable, safe, and secure housing on women and children, particularly victim-survivors of gendered violence.
Our submission is informed by the experiences of staff at Women’s Legal Services supporting women to access housing, including lawyers, social workers, and financial counsellors, as well as the experiences of our clients, particularly the barriers they face in accessing affordable housing, including safe and secure tenancies, where they have experienced, or are experiencing, gendered violence.
We make the following recommendations:
- Increase the use of legislative provisions to enable victim-survivors to remain in the home with the perpetrator removed, including training and guidance for judicial officers to ensure that they are applied consistently by the courts, and the lack of affordable housing is taken into consideration.
- Additional funding for Women’s Legal Services to ensure that women are aware of legislative protections to enable victim-survivors to remain in the home and are supported to access legal protection and financial entitlement in family law and family violence matters.
- Increase funding for ‘Safe at Home’ type programs to enable women to remain safely in the home with the perpetrator removed and increase flexible support and financial assistance packages for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.
- Urgently build 25,000 social homes each year for 20 years to tackle the social housing shortfall.
- Expand eligibility criteria in all jurisdictions to enable women and children experiencing domestic or family violence to access social housing, including women on temporary visas experiencing violence and women who are homeowners.
- Additional funding for Women’s Legal Services to provide women with intersecting legal and housing needs with access to social workers and financial counselling to prevent homelessness associated with domestic and family violence and poverty.
- Increase access to rental properties through financial assistance, sub-leasing arrangements, rental subsidies, bond loans, or rental grants.