Advocates say the Queensland government should respond to the deepening housing crisis as it would be a natural disaster and invest billions in the new housing stock.
It should also convene leaders from the sector to form that response and guarantee the 2032 Brisbane Olympics do not fuel homelessness and housing stress.
The calls, coming as the treasurer, Cameron Dick, prepares to table the state’s budget next Tuesday, have been led by Q Shelter with the release of its annual submission to the government.
Q Shelter’s executive director, Fiona Caniglia, said the sector was “under more pressure than ever” before and called for a leaders’ meeting to coordinate support for those displaced by the floods, the pandemic, and soaring house prices, as well as to work to prevent the emergence of the next generation of homeless people.
“The situation is urgent and needs to be treated similarly to a significant natural disaster, with joined-up responses involving government, the not-for-profit sector, and the private sector,” Caniglia said.
“We need to call people to the table to solve some immediate challenges while working together for medium and longer-term change.”
Q Shelter’s submission outlines a range of actions, including the rapid development of a social inclusion plan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and calls for specialists from the sector to be included in formal advisory roles for those major events.
The use of secondary dwellings, such as granny flats, and a housing guarantee for vulnerable families during pregnancy and the early childhood years were also called for.
These proposed actions resonate with Sam* and Jackie*, a young family left homeless, saw their businesses destroyed, and had a baby all in a few short weeks.
Jackie was eight months pregnant when the first floor of the couple’s house went underwater in February.
With that went her office and his garage, where he had been operating his mechanical workshop since the couple moved in six years ago, which housed tools and vehicles worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Sam said it makes him sick to think about it but tallies all the young family’s losses of around half a million dollars.
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Once the flood waters receded, the expectant parents were temporarily put up in a one-bedroom studio in nearby Southport by their insurance company.
During those nine days, Sam said government support workers told him that the “absolute best” they could offer was a caravan park.
“I said to them, ‘look, I don’t want to be ungrateful, but can you imagine your wife is that pregnant, being in the caravan park where we couldn’t even have cooking facilities?’” he said.
“That was just not going to be pleasant.”
Fortunately, Jackie’s sister was able to put them up for almost three months, during which she gave birth, and the couple began organizing repairs on their home.
Sam and Jackie were among the hundreds of Queenslanders who turned to St Vincent de Paul after the floods in February and March.
The Vinnies state chief, Kevin Mercer, agreed the housing crisis was similar to a natural disaster, needing an “urgent and significant” response. But there was one key difference.
“Unlike a flood or a fire, the cause and response are in the control of our policymakers across all levels of government – state, federal, and local,” he said.
While the “lack of investment in social housing over many decades” had created the crisis, he said the money and energy spent on delivering the Olympics could be harnessed to help alleviate homelessness and housing stress.
“Many host cities will look to hide or relocate their homeless population during the Games, which only increases the issue in the long term,” Mercer said.
“What a great legacy it would be for Brisbane as an Olympics host city to proudly show the world how we support our most vulnerable residents with access to affordable housing.”
The Queensland government did not respond to a request for comment.
*Not their real names.