Echuca-Moama locals struggle to find affordable housing this Christmas

By Charmayne Allison

MANY locals may not be home for Christmas, with a staggering 20 per cent increase in residents presenting to Anglicare Echuca requiring a homelessness response in just the past 12 months.

That’s an extra 135 times locals have asked the service for assistance.

Anglicare regional director Francis Lynch said locals’ struggles to find affordable housing were consistent with statewide trends.

However, this was further exacerbated by Echuca-Moama’s status as a popular tourist destination.

“There is short term housing such as motels available, however these are often not accessible or affordable for people on low incomes,” he said.

“There is also a shortage of long term housing, including high demand for private rental and social housing.”

Mr Lynch said Echuca, like all regional centres, needed a statewide response to address the dearth in affordable and accessible housing.

This includes considering alternative and creative solutions to the housing affordability crisis for all segments of society, not just first-home buyers.

In its 2019 affordability snapshot for Victoria, Anglicare also advised state-funded out of home care should be available to young people up to 21 years of age.

Many young people leaving the state care system experience a range of poor outcomes including greater involvement in the criminal justice system, homelessness and unemployment.

Finally, it urged an increase in the rate of Youth and Newstart allowances and ongoing work to ensure parents and children leaving family violence have access to dedicated, safe and affordable housing.

“Echuca also requires the community to have an increased awareness of the challenges that are facing those in financial and housing crisis,” he said.

It's a crisis that’s knocking on the doors of welfare agencies across the twin towns, with the Salvation Army also reporting a 20 per cent increase in demand in the past year.

“We refer people to Anglicare and Haven; Home, Safe – but these organisations are struggling as well,” Echuca-Moama Salvation Army Auxiliary Lieutenant Sonia Edwards said.

“There is very little emergency accommodation in town and basically no long-term accommodation. But sadly we can’t help with that – the Salvation Army can nationally but on the local level, no.

“We desperately need more accommodation in town.”

With Christmas already a significant time of financial stress for families, Mr Lynch said Anglicare was endeavouring to assist locals wherever possible.

“We provide a range of homelessness responses including assisting people to access and maintain housing,” he said.

“We advocate for people in housing distress, offer financial counselling, and make referrals to other relevant community supports.

“We collaborate with local housing providers to optimise housing stability.

“And we also offer a range of early intervention supports to identify those people at risk of homelessness and work towards preventing a housing crisis.”