6th August 2021

The quick spread of COVID-19 in Fairfield City has been linked to household transmission within large families. But this is not the full picture of large households in the area. Many Fairfield residents are experiencing severe overcrowding.

“Overcrowding is a big problem in Fairfield. There is a shortage of affordable accommodation, there may be 2 families living within the same house. So when we have heard that large families are contracting the virus, some of these cases are linked to overcrowding. ” explains Juana Reinoso, CEO of CORE Community Services, an organisation working with the local migrant and refugee population in Fairfield City.

Fairfield City is one of the most disadvantaged cities in Greater Sydney based on low employment, low educational attainment, and higher levels of employment in unskilled occupations. Fairfield City is a place where the majority of people from refugee backgrounds start their life in Australia. Nearly 60 percent of people in Fairfield City were born overseas and three quarters of households speak a language other than English.

“Service providers see clients who pay up to 80 per cent of their income on rent,” explains Juana. “This affects the ability of humanitarian entrants to settle and adjust to life in Australia. Humanitarian entrants, who struggle to find employment on arrival, may not be able to meet basic needs of their households.”

“Affordability is the huge issue in Fairfield and the high rental costs means it is common to see families of 5 people living in a 2-bedroom home, and grandparents, parents and children all living in the one house”. Juana explains

A new report by the Fairfield Housing Taskforce and the University of New South Wales titled Mental Wellbeing Impact Assessment of Refugee Transitional Housing Support Program looked at the impact of congested living on mental wellbeing of refugees. The lack of freedom and personal space from overcrowding has led to poor mental health outcomes. Evidence from settlement caseworkers identified rental affordability as one of the key factors which contributes to congested living arrangements.

Fairfield Housing Taskforce spokesperson Marie Saliba explains that “the COVID outbreak in Southwest Sydney has again brought to the forefront the inadequate living conditions of many living in Fairfield city, which has increased their exposure to Covid-19. The extended lock-
downs targeting the city will only push more people into poverty, exacerbate existing mental health issues, and create more demand for social housing which is of huge under supply and investment by government”.

The Fairfield Housing Taskforce calls for federal and state government to make investment in sustainable, quality social housing in the area a priority. This would create local jobs, stimulate the economy, improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and improve the health and safety of the entire Greater Sydney population.

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