Friday, August 12 2022

They say your home is your castle, but Adam Pippos may be the only social housing tenant in Australia to sit on a throne.

He lives near the western suburbs of the Gold Coast – an area with Queensland’s second lowest vacancy rate and where rents have jumped 23.3% in 12 months, according to analysis by the National Housing Campaign Everybody’s Home.

After a serious back injury forced Mr Pippos on a disability pension, he floated between temporary accommodation for two years.

While there are around 3,100 applications for council housing on the Gold Coast, Mr Pippos has managed to secure a home with enough space for his passion for woodcarving.

“A block of wood, you can do whatever you want with it, there are no limits,” he said.

But he is one of the luckiest, with housing advocates fearing that even people working full time will be forced to move to trailer parks or pitch tents in backyards.

Adam Pippos says people living in social housing should remember “that life is supposed to be great and exciting”.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

Housing as an “essential service”

Community Housing Limited manages 11,000 social and affordable properties across Australia.

“We are getting more and more housing inquiries from people who work full time but cannot afford a private rental,” spokeswoman Cathy Beadnall said.

She said there was “a perfect storm at the time of rising interest rates, inflation, more and more people struggling to find housing”.

According to an analysis of real estate data by Everybody’s Home, the West Gold Coast, which stretches from Nerang to Varsity Lakes, has a vacancy rate of 0.29%.

At the end of May, 64 properties were available for rent out of 21,978.

Everybody’s Home spokeswoman Kate Colvin said such housing availability was “a national issue”.

A woman in a black shirt with short gray hair smiles at the camera
Kate Colvin says the policy to increase the supply of social housing does not go far enough.(Provided: Everyone is home)

“There are 50 other households trying to get that property and then it becomes a competition to see who the most attractive tenant is.

“So maybe the local surgeon gets a property, but the local supermarket employee is really struggling.”

30,000 houses promised

Ms Colvin said even people with full-time jobs were moving to trailer parks or “pitching a tent in a friend’s backyard or in the state park”.

“When we have a market failure, the private sector just doesn’t provide the new rentals in the market that are needed, [so] we need the government to step in,” she said.

“[The federal government] pledged ahead of the election to build 20,000 social housing units and 10,000 affordable housing units over five years – that’s a really fantastic start.

“But we need around 25,000 properties a year.”

Federal Housing Minister Julie Collins was unavailable for comment but told media last month that the federal government had elevated the housing portfolio to Cabinet.

“We also, of course, want to address affordability and supply with the advice,” she said.

“We need to work together – local government, state government, federal government, community housing providers and also private builders.”

More than a “roof”

A Queensland Department of Housing spokesman said $2.9 billion had been committed to social and affordable housing, with 7,400 new homes over four years.

“Of these, 260 new homes will be started on the Gold Coast through a budgeted investment of $70.4 million through June 2025,” the spokesperson said.

“Many of those who have registered an interest on the Housing Registry have already been helped to meet their immediate housing needs with other solutions such as bond loans and rental subsidies.”

House roofs from above
Housing supply and affordability have tightened considerably over the past two years.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

But Ms Beadnall said social housing was much more than a ‘roof over your head’.

Adam Pippos and his handcrafted wooden throne – now on display as part of an art exhibit at the Kirra Community Center – may be one example.

“As everything goes up in cost, everyone struggles and forgets that life is supposed to be great and exciting,” he said.

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