‘At Least I’m Not Outside’: How The Cost of Housing Exposes Women to Family Violence

July 19, 2017

Sarah is despondent when she looks around the small room she shares with her two traumatised children, years after they fled her violent husband.

Her daughters, 11 and 12, sleep on roll-out beds, do their homework on the bathroom floor and cook toast on the cheap stovetop near the bed. They watch their mother cry as she despairs at how she will afford the next rent instalment, let alone save bond money for somewhere better.

“I look at myself and I think, ‘How did I get to this?’, because I’m actually a smart, educated woman,” Sarah said. “And I just think, ‘Well at least I’m not outside, like I see a lot of people outside on the street.’”

Photo: article supplied

Sarah is one of the many women caught between Australia’s dual crises: family violence and housing affordability. She left an abusive, violent and controlling relationship, only to find herself struggling to put a roof over her daughters’ heads.

Her family has teetered on the edge of homelessness, barely able to scrape together the $260 rent she is paying for a single room – with no separate bedroom or kitchen – below the home of an older couple in Victoria.

The public debate about housing affordability tends to be blind to those like Sarah, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

In 2015-16, 106,000 people experiencing domestic and family violence sought help from homelessness agencies, 38% of the total demand on such services, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. That’s an increase of 14% from the year prior and the vast majority of those seeking help were women.

Anglicare’s latest report on rental affordability examined 67,000 properties and found just 1.5% were suitable and affordable for a single parent on the parenting payment. A single parent on Newstart with one child over eight could afford to rent only 0.35% of properties.

The report found “a considerable number” of those leaving family violence situations were likely to experience “significant housing stress” and cited many examples of women staying in abusive relationships due to the costs of housing.

Many states give priority to those who have experienced family violence when considering community housing applications but the wait times are still significant.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

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