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MCM is calling on government to increase social housing for young people

6 October 2022

Couch surfing with a young child is an experience no mother should have to go through, especially when fleeing family violence. However, this is the reality for many young mothers.

The number of young women, including many with babies, accessing homelessness services in Victoria has more than doubled in the past two years. MCM has seen a 145% increase in the number of 16 to 24-year-old women, many with young children and most fleeing family violence, accessing their homelessness services since the start of the pandemic.

Ashley is just of these young women, who along with her young son, Arlo, received support from MCM.

"I had to choose between staying at a youth homelessness refuge with my four-month old or going back to a hostile and violent home... I felt very hopeless and lost." Read more about Ashley's story.

"Young people aren’t being provided social housing because they’re seen as ‘riskier’ tenants with incomes too low to cover the cost of that housing," MCM CEO Vicki Sutton said.

MCM’s Director of Public Policy Shorna Moore said the government needs to allocate social housing to young people specifically so they weren’t competing with adults on higher incomes and with more rental experience and to also provide age-appropriate support to young people such as entering the workforce.

“The housing system is designed for adults and not young people. And there are a number of barriers for young people to access housing, all housing, social housing, private rental is virtually impossible, especially for young people who are experiencing homelessness and can't live at home with their parents,” she said.

First, their incomes were too low to cover the cost of housing, she said, and also the amount social housing providers can accept from young people on Centrelink or even on a lower income was not enough to cover basic costs like tenancy management.

The Office of Premier of Victoria said through their landmark Big Housing Build, they were investing $50 million in capital grants for new housing builds for young people at risk of experiencing homelessness.

"We invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year to support homelessness services, including youth-specific initiatives," a Victorian government spokesperson said.

5,000 young people came to a specialist homelessness service in 2021 in need of longer-term housing and were turned away. MCM CEO Vicki Sutton is calling for "a youth housing pipeline of at least 5,000 social housing places with support to address the urgent need."

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