Vacancy rates for rental properties in the Shoalhaven are at an all time low of around one per cent.
Nationally, the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial stress it has caused to millions of residents has highlighted the urgent need for more social and affordable housing options across the state, prompting the Country Women's Association (CWA) of NSW to advocate on the issue during its annual Awareness Week in September.
This year's Awareness Week campaign runs from September 5-11 and has a particular emphasis on the social and affordable housing needs in rural and regional NSW, as well as on women over 55 who are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia.
The CWA of NSW is working with Mission Australia on this year's campaign. Mission Australia supports people who are homeless to find housing and those at risk of becoming homeless to stay housed.
Milton CWA president Jenny Coulston said the campaign aims to highlight an issue that needs to change.
"We are no different to any other regions, although sometimes we're worse off as we're a holiday destination and many homes are rented solely as Airbnbs," she said.
"Of course, that's the owner's privilege to do so, but we're proud to have social and affordable housing as our Awareness Week campaign because there are still many people who aren't aware of the issues we're experiencing."
Rental prices have risen by up to 15 per cent in some Shoalhaven locations and many home asset holders have moved into their residences rather than renting, taking more rentals off the market.
This is creating a high level of housing stress especially for those very low-income renters who currently make up 55 per cent of all households in housing stress.
"Here in Milton Ulladulla there is certainly very limited housing and often what there is available, people can't afford the bonds or the rent," Jenny said.
CWA of NSW appreciates state and federal governments are putting resources towards social and affordable housing but said it is not keeping pace with the current demand and the demand expected in the future.
Many groups across the Shoalhaven, through the Shoalhaven Affordable Housing Strategy, including Mission Australia, Shoalhaven City Council and Southern Cross Housing are working together to address the growing levels of homelessness in the Shoalhaven area.
These groups are lobbying both State and Federal governments, acquiring more land for affordable housing options and working with a variety of community support agencies.
While COVID restrictions are currently affecting fundraising activities, once lifted, Milton CWA will be back to organising their popular garage sale fundraisers and the regular 'stall at the hall' on Wednesdays where people can pick up some delicious jams, cakes and treats.
All money is distributed by CWA NSW to Mission Australia.
The CWA of NSW is supporting recommendations from a raft of community housing providers to establish: .
- A dedicated NSW Government capital fund to build 5,000 new social housing properties every year for 10 years.
- Greater investment in a comprehensive maintenance program across existing social housing properties.
- More consideration of the need in rural and regional NSW.
- New strategies and reforms that could improve overall housing affordability across the state; and . superannuation reforms and improvements to the rental assistance scheme that would assist low income earners, particularly financially-vulnerable older women.