Media Release: Fears of COVID-19 housing crisis for vulnerable families

Australia’s leading national women’s organisation is warning of an impending housing crisis for women and children escaping domestic and family violence during and after the COVID-19 lockdown.

YWCA Director of National Housing and Property Development Jan Berriman said the Federal Government’s COVID-19 pledge of $150 million to support an expected rise in demand for domestic and family violence services was welcomed but it would not go far enough to meet the rising need for safe housing for women and children at risk.

“There was not enough crisis, refuge, social or affordable housing stock to meet demand even before COVID-19,” Ms Berriman said. “With the number of domestic violence cases expected to rise significantly in the coming months, we will see a sharp increase in homelessness and families forced to live in unsuitable crisis accommodation.

“We need urgent action to increase affordable housing stock so women and children escaping violence have access to safe, long term accommodation.”

Ms Berriman said YWCA Australia was calling for a similar investment as the $5 billion 2009 Nation Building stimulus package which provided 20,000 new homes, the majority of which went to social housing.

“There is a huge risk that women will suffer in silence until the COVID-19 crisis has passed,” she warned. “While case workers expect a rise in domestic violence incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the full extent of the need for support and housing would not be known until after the crisis is over.

“We expect the impact to be similar to the bushfires earlier this year where some of our domestic and family violence services were seeing a doubling of serious threat cases after the immediate crisis had passed.

“It is then that they will need access to safe houses, counselling and employment services to get back on their feet and we need to be ready to support them.”

Ms Berriman said women over the age of 55, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, those with disability, LGBTIQA+ young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were particularly vulnerable to homelessness.

She said YWCA’s domestic and family violence services, and domestic violence services by other organisations were still open and available to support women at this time.

Women and homelessness risk:

  • Women over 55 are the fastest growing cohort experiencing homelessness. There has been a 10% increase in homelessness among women since 2011. In particular, the number of older women experiencing homelessness grew 31% from 2011-2016.
  • Lack of long–term affordable housing stock, so that women and children can’t move on from crisis accommodation. 90% of all applications to YWCA National Housing in the first six months of 2019 were unsuccessful due to lack of housing stock.
  • Single women have been priced out of the rental market. A March 2019 Rental Affordability Snapshot showed that there were two affordable private rental properties in Australia at that time, for singles on Newstart.

Women in immediate danger should called Triple Zero (000) and ask for the Police.

People can also call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

COVID-19 Update

Statement from YWCA National Housing

These are uncertain and ever-evolving times for us all. To ensure that our affordable housing remain open and accessible, we have taken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our tenants and staff. This includes increased hygiene measures for face to face support and within our houses, and added telephone support.

We ask that if you are displaying any cold or flu symptoms, to please call ahead. We may be able to help you over the phone and reduce any risk of transmission to help keep everyone safe.

Things are likely to change over coming weeks and months as the situation escalates. We promise that we will keep you updated on any changes to our housing services.

Information for our tenants

We know that our tenants are amazing women in close-knit communities who will look after each other during this crisis. We encourage our tenants to practice social distancing to reduce the risk of transmission, but to remember that being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. Check in on each other, and stay safe and well.

Per previous correspondence sent to each tenant, we ask that you notify us immediately if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been required to self-isolate after contact with a confirmed case. This helps us to help you!

Access to supermarkets and food

Tenants are also encouraged to be aware of supermarket and food options for seniors, people with disability and people who are required to self-isolate. This includes priority delivery and special designated shopping hours. For more information, check out supermarket websites as follows:

If tenants are based in Victoria, there are emergency relief packages available for those who are in mandatory self isolation. These can be accessed by calling the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. For more information, see the Victorian Premier’s media release.

Please note as well that hospitality venues (restaurants, pubs, clubs, etc.) are now trading as takeaway or home delivery venues only.

State Government COVID-19 websites

For regular COVID-19 updates and advice, please visit:

Other Supports

National Coronavirus Hotline: 1800 020 080

Services Australia: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/

Red Cross TeleCross: https://www.redcross.org.au/get-help/community-services/telecross

Media Release: Alliance of women’s housing providers calling for increased funding for the sector

A new alliance of not-for-profit women’s organisations in Victoria is counting on their collective voices to drive increased funding for their sector to meet the housing needs of women and children escaping domestic and family violence.

The new Women’s Housing Alliance (WHA), established in 2019, is made up of representatives from YWCA National Housing, Women’s Property Initiatives, safe steps Family Violence Response Centre, Women’s Housing Ltd., McAuley Community Services for Women, Women’s Health Victoria, Good Samaritan Inn and WISHIN.

Jan Berriman of YWCA National Housing says, “WHA was created because each organisation in the Alliance was experiencing an absolute groundswell of demand for increased housing choices for women. From crisis and refuge housing, to permanent affordable and social housing, it is clear that there is not enough housing stock to meet demand.”

WHA’s mission is to advocate and address chronic housing shortage for women and children who are escaping family violence and experiencing homelessness in growing rates. This shortage has left many women and children spending far too many nights in unsuitable short-term crisis accommodation.

“We’ve realised that our organisations can effect greater change working across the full spectrum of women’s housing needs by advocating together,” says Felicity Rorke of Good Samaritan Inn.

WHA has already met with state government to raise the key issues that they have identified.

  • Women over 55 as the fastest growing cohort experiencing homelessness. There has been a 10% increase in homelessness among women since 2011. In particular, the number of older women experiencing homelessness grew 31% from 2011-2016.
  • Lack of longterm affordable housing stock, so that women and children can’t move on from crisis accommodation. 90% of all applications to YWCA National Housing in the first six months of 2019 were unsuccessful due to lack of housing stock.
  • Single women have been priced out of the rental market. A March 2019 Rental Affordability Snapshot showed that there were two affordable private rental properties in Australia at that time, for singles on Newstart.
  • Dependency on unsuitable short-term crisis accommodation to house vulnerable women and children.

“The key thing to note about the Alliance is that we come with solutions not just problems,” says Jeanette Large of Women’s Property Initiatives. “We have a long list of recommendations that can help to address this significant gap between demand and supply.”

Some of these recommendations require a brave government to stand behind landmark legislation to create real social change in the long-term – others require a funding increase to address immediate needs.

“Long-term responses include investment in innovative housing solutions like co-operative housing models, shared equity models, community land trusts and many more,” says Jocelyn Bignold of McAuley Community Services for Women.

“In the medium-term, we need to see a significant increase in community social housing stock that is owned and/or managed by women’s housing organisations. This would need to be a commitment of at least 3000 additional rental properties every year for ten years in order to make up for the compounded lack of historical investment.”

“Until there is sufficient and affordable medium and long-term housing in place for women and children escaping family violence, we will continue to experience bottlenecks in the crisis accommodation system,” says Rita Butera of safe steps.

For its next key advocacy move, WHA will be making a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness in Australia and hope to secure a meeting with the Committee overseeing the Inquiry.

About the Women’s Housing Alliance

The Women’s Housing Alliance (WHA), established in 2019, is made up of representatives from YWCA National Housing, Women’s Property Initiatives, safe steps Family Violence Response Centre, Women’s Housing Ltd., McAuley Community Services for Women, Women’s Health Victoria, Good Samaritan Inn and Wishin.

WHA aims to advocate and address chronic housing shortage for women and children who are escaping family violence and experiencing homelessness in growing rates. We have a vision where there are housing solutions which provide timely, safe, accessible and affordable homes for women, children and young people in vulnerable circumstances.

Media Contact

Amanda Chan, Senior Manager – Communications, YWCA Australia
M: 0433 843 643
E: [email protected]

Media Release: Bendigo women to get footing on the housing ladder

Bendigo women and their children who have experienced family violence or are at risk of homelessness will have access to safe and affordable housing with a new $2.2 million project being developed by YWCA National Housing.

YWCA National Housing and Property Development Director Jan Berriman said the build-to-rent project was a first-off for YWCA, which had been working with women in the region for more than a century.

“As a specialist women’s housing provider, YWCA National Housing has worked with GJ Gardner Homes to design these townhouses to meet the needs of some of Bendigo’s most vulnerable women,” she said.

Once completed, these townhouses will be held by YWCA and made available for 75% of the market rental rate. Women and children on lower incomes who have experienced family violence will be prioritised as tenants.

“Many women in the Greater Bendigo area face serious barriers to affordable housing, particularly those who have experienced family violence,” Ms Berriman said.

“One-third of working women in Bendigo earn less than $400 a week and more than half of women of working age in the region are not in the labour force.

“This crisis is set to worsen with the region’s population forecast to rise to 156,000 by 2036, requiring an additional 900 homes per year in the region.”

Ms. Berriman said long-term residents of the five two-storey townhouses would be given the option to buy their homes in the future.

“Women comprise the fastest group of people at risk of homelessness in Australia because they are often unable to afford the private rental market and demand for affordable rental properties outstrips supply.

“Bendigo is a stark example of this tragic reality.”

The family-friendly three-bedroom townhouses will be designed with sustainability and security in mind, and include solar panels, double glazing, and water saving techniques. To help residents connect with services, education, employment and community, each townhouse will have NBN connectivity. They are expected to be completed in mid-2020.

GJ Gardner Homes Director Danny Breen said he was proud to partner with YWCA on the project.

“Our organisation is committed to giving back to the community, and we look forward to delivering wonderful homes for five women-headed households,” Mr Breen said.

Ms Berriman said the build-to-rent initiative reflected YWCA National Housing’s commitment to improving women’s social, economic and educational participation through the provision of safe, secure and affordable housing.

Applications and eligibility criteria for these townhouses will be released in March 2020. YWCA National Housing will be working with local providers to refer clients to this opportunity.

Apply Now: YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Board

Are you passionate about women’s housing? Are you looking to contribute to the YWCA movement and vision of a world where all women, young women and girls have access to safe and affordable housing.

We are now seeking applications for appropriately qualified people to join the YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Board. YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing (National Housing) are both subsidiaries of YWCA Australia, the national association of YWCA’s in Australia which is part of the world YWCA movement.

The National Housing board comprises up to 9 independent directors, each appointed on a skills basis. The board of directors aims to comprise at least 30% young women (age 30 or under at the time of their appointment).

Directors are expected to participate in board subcommittees as needed, in the areas of: 

  • Finance, Audit & Risk
  • Property & Assets
  • People, Culture and Governance

Please send your application to [email protected]

Young women are encouraged to apply.

Applications close on 27 September 2019.

One Year Anniversary of our Lakehouse pop-up!

Women over 50 are the fastest growing group of people experiencing housing instability in Australia – often as a result of pay inequity, little to no superannuation or savings, divorce, domestic and family violence and taking time doing unpaid care work.

To combat this growing inequity for women, YWCA worked with our partners to create Lakehouse – a “pop up” housing project that gives us the capacity to keep nearly 40 older women safe, warm and supported at any one time. Learn more about Lakehouse.

In one year Lakehouse has:

  • Housed over 50 women, 50% of whom have experienced domestic or family violence
  • Won a Powerhousing Australia award in the category of Leadership and Innovation
  • Enabled the majority of women leaving Lakehouse to move into public housing or the private rental market

Lakehouse would not be possible without the support of our wonderful partners who helped transform Lakehouse into a home: MetriconResidential GroupDezign ElectricsReeceAdes Dingley PlumbingTwo GoodTonner TransportKitchen InnovationsAll Over BinsBunnings Port MelbournePrime GroupSilver ChefMilton GroupSigma, CaspacareCity of Port PhillipLord Mayors Charitable FoundationRotary – South Melbourne and DHHS.

YWCA would particularly like to thank Rob Pradolin from Housing All Australians for his ongoing support and his innovative solutions to homelessness.

YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Board Changes

Caption: Richmond House, one of YWCA National Housing’s properties

We would like to announce some recent changes to roles on the YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Boards. As of 1 July 2019, Anna Draffin is the new Chair and Kirsty Rourke is the new Deputy Chair of both Boards.

Anna was a Director of YWCA Victoria Housing between 2016 and 2018, and joined the YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing boards in 2018. Anna has experience in corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors and is currently the CEO of ShareGift Australia. Her skills in strategy, business development, communications and translation of innovative ideas into commercial reality will serve YWCA well as Chair of our housing boards.

Kirsty was a Director of both YWCA Queensland and YWCA Australia prior to joining the YWCA Housing Boards in 2018. Kirsty is a seasoned real estate professional and passionate about young women’s leadership and providing women and families with access to long-term, stable accommodation. Her skills in legal, strategic and risk management are critical in YWCA’s development and management of community housing properties.

We thank Melinda van der Westhuizen, who has recently made the decision to step back from the role of Chair of the YWCA Housing and YWCA National Housing Boards. We are fortunate that Melinda will continue on both housing boards as a director. Her knowledge and experience of the property and housing sector and strategic business planning are very much valued.

Thank you Caroline, former YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Board Director

We thank former director, Caroline Treacy, who has recently made the decision to step down from the YWCA Housing and YWCA National Housing Boards. Prior to her role on the YWCA Housing and YWCA National Housing boards, Caroline was a Director of YWCA Queensland for six years, and chaired the Property Assets Committee for eight years.

We recognise her significant contribution to YWCA Housing, and YWCA more broadly. Her skills in property development and adaptive use of buildings as the founder of Grey Space, an architecture firm focusing on aged care, retirement living, disability accommodation and community housing, uniquely qualified Caroline for her role on the YWCA housing boards. Because of Caroline’s contribution, YWCA is strongly positioned to continue innovating and diversifying our affordable housing property options.

Caroline remains a part of the Y family and we thank her for her leadership and contribution.

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