Homeless people are sleeping in tents and public toilets in Mount Gambier despite almost 50 social housing properties sitting empty across the region, according to South Australian Shadow Human Services Minister Nat Cook. 

Key points:

  • Landlords in Mount Gambier are allegedly listing properties on Airbnb, driving rental costs higher and leading to a housing shortage 
  • Community service providers say they are giving homeless people tents as a last resort 
  • The state government says millions of dollars are being poured into addressing the community housing crisis

Ms Cook — who toured some of the vacant community properties in Mount Gambier — said urgent action was needed to address the critical issue, given there were more than 100 homeless people in the city.

She said the figures were revealed in a recent report, which she obtained through Freedom of Information, that stated there were 48 empty properties in Mount Gambier managed by the South Australian Housing Authority.

“Mount Gambier service providers have told me there are people sleeping in tents and public toilets,” Ms Cook said.

“How can the Marshall Liberal Government with conscience say they are doing everything they can for these people when there are homes to fill, people to fill them? Yet, there is no pathway for that to happen.”

An empty community housing property at Mount Gambier.(Supplied: Nat Cook)

Ms Cook said emergency housing providers were exhausting all resources at their disposal, with tents being offered to people experiencing homelessness as a last resort.

But she said the cost to then camp at a powered site was $34 per day, with Centrelink payments being as little as $39 per day.

Ms Cook said this left people without money to buy food and other essentials.

She claimed neighbours, who lived next to the empty homes, had expressed disappointment that they were being left empty and not given to people in need.

“It is pretty disappointing to go and look at [a houses] and it actually looks pretty clean and ready to be tenanted, with perhaps only minor things that need to be remedied,” she said.

A community housing block in Mount Gambier.(Supplied: Nat Cook)

$550m housing strategy

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink said the state government was delivering a new once-in-a-generation $550 million housing strategy.

She said the strategy would empower more South Australians to become home owners, preventing people from falling into homelessness and ensuring public housing was for the  most vulnerable.

“Our deliberate and targeted multimillion-dollar plan is injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy, boosting vital construction and building jobs through the delivery of 1,000 new affordable homes, as well as delivering record public housing maintenance and housing renewal,” Ms Lensink said.

“While we continue to get on with the job of delivering our strong, new half-a-billion-dollar housing plan, Labor and Pete [Malinauskas] haven’t put one positive housing solution forward in more than three years.

“Labor’s track record in public housing is a disgrace and we’re working hard to fix the system and their mess after almost two decades of neglect.”

Posted , updated