Letter Published In The Age 3 July 2008

Sam Afra, Chairperson, Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, Carlton

DAVID Imber raised many valid points on the challenges faced by low-income renters (Comment & Debate, 1/7). However, an extra hierarchy of vulnerability exists among this disadvantaged socio-economic group.

Among the most deprived, marginalised and exploited are new refugee families with four or more children. Already burdened with adjusting to life after surviving traumas and tragedies, these high-population households encounter further anxiety in trying to secure even the most modest housing. Affordable opportunities are virtually non-existent in the private property market, with the design of modern living environments reflecting an era of shrinking families. Scandalously, the public housing sector is little better.

With so much fanfare made about Melbourne's international "liveability" status and the merits of a booming population, it is appalling that needy households should be punished for exceeding the average composite of parents and 2.4 children. Even if we have reached the sad stage that market forces no longer deem these families to be a worthwhile investment, governments have a responsibility to ensure that public housing is not so restricted in vision and compassion that close-knit families are forced apart, into over-crowded conditions or to sleep out in the cold.

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