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Youth housing should be seen as essential economic infrastructure

Read the full article on the Australian Property Journal

FAILURE to act on youth homelessness shelter needs will cost Australia $4.5 billion per year by 2051, while investments in social and affordable housing for the cohort returns nearly twice its value in benefits.

According to a new report from Housing All Australians, in collaboration with SGS Economics and Planning, every $1 invested in social and affordable housing for youth delivers $2.60 in benefits.

“We need a national housing strategy that views investment in youth housing as essential economic infrastructure. If we want to maximise the productivity of all citizens, we need to ensure their fundamental housing needs are met,” said Robert Pradolin, co-founder and director at Housing All Australians.

“Policymakers are encouraged to pay close attention to the remarkable rates of return achieved from investing in social and affordable housing for young people. It is comparable to, and often greater than, the returns achieved on other major Australian infrastructure investments.”

The benefit cost ratio for each state and territory ranges from 1.94-3.34. With the benefits/cost savings to the Australian community are estimated at $7.3 billion in present value terms.

While the current value cost to taxpayers to fully eradicate youth homelessness over 30 years is estimated to be $4.5 billion.

Victoria would see the greatest cost benefits from eliminating youth homelessness over the next three decades, with a +$432 million in budget savings.

Followed by Queensland with +$240 million in savings, NSW with +$182 million, South Australia with +$160 million, the Northern Territory with +$123 million, Western Australia with +$62 million, ACT with +$22 million and Tasmania with +$14 million.

“The findings of our Report provide valuable insights for policymakers, community leaders, and stakeholders and confirms that a targeted national housing strategy can solve Australia’s youth homelessness crisis,” added Pradolin.

“The financial benefits and savings accrued from solving youth homelessness are over $7.3 billion and are spread across many areas including health care, lower crime costs, a reduction in domestic violence, carer benefits, and enhanced human capital.”

According to the report, more than 17,000 young Australians aged 19-24 are currently homeless.

Victoria alone has seen a 24% overall increase to homelessness over the last five years and one in two areas experiencing growth of more than 20%.

With a report from last year showing 640,000 Australian households are not seeing their housing needs met, with the number of people already homeless when seeking help has increased by 5.5% over 2023.