Saturday, July 31, 2004

THE HOUSING CRISIS

 
A serious housing crisis is affecting the resettlement of  African refugees in South Australia.  And there is, apparently, no immediate relief in sight given the boom in the private rental market, and the lack of affordable rental properties for those on very low income.

The category of refugees most affected by this crisis is the “sponsored refugees”.  As the name implies, “sponsored refugees” are those refugees sponsored by family members who are already in Australia.

All “sponsored refugees” pay for their own airfares to Australia and meet their living expenses. They are not entitled to some of  the welfare benefits others take for granted soon after arrival.  In fact, they have to fulfill  their own housing needs in the private rental market.  And this is the horn of the dilemma.

Recently, thousands of refugees arriving in this state come as “sponsored refugees”.  They are the poorest of the poor, with no independent resources of their own.    They depend solely on the goodwill of others; notably families and friends and private welfare agencies. 

They  have neither job.  Nor income.  Nor rights.  Nor security.  Nor  a place they can call their own.  And overcrowding in the available homes has become a significant problem; putting enormous pressure on existing families.

Come to think of it, these refugees have absolutely nothing really, except the presence of their own mind and the rock-solid determination to survive.

Meanwhile, the housing crisis continues.  The sense of crisis is exacerbated  by the fact that most refugees are considered “risky tenants”, for one reason or  another.  And the landlords will not even offer them the lease because they have no rental history in Australia; and obviously no “references from previous landlords” to support their application; having only just arrived in Australia  from refugee camps.

Thus, in the short-term at least, the refugees are still in limbo, despite efforts at resettlement.  It is paradise postponed.  Most are yet to enjoy the freedom of renting their own place; let alone developing and controlling their own resources.

Nor will they realize the great Australian dream of owning their own home any moment soon, given the nature of the present crisis.
 

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