Property owners can help domestic violence survivors
THOUSANDS of Queenslanders will be asked to open their hearts and homes to families escaping domestic violence in a game-changing response as the COVID-19 lockdown intensifies horrific abuse.
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Dubbed the Good Samaritan Rental Initiative, landlords will be asked to join together to make available properties sitting vacant due to the collapse of the holiday and property market for survivors who have nowhere to go.
It comes in the wake of the devastating Hannah Clarke murders, and as the pressure-cooker environment of COVID-19 produces a three-quarter spike in online searches for help, a three-fold increase in the need for emergency accommodation and a marked increase in the brutality and severity of physical assaults.
The brainchild of Real Estate Institute of Queensland chief executive Antonia Mercorella and Domestic Violence Prevention Minister Di Farmer, properties would be listed under a confidential scheme with free or below-market rent.
Ms Mercorella said it wasn't good enough to people to just be horrified by the tragedy on TVs because everyone had a role to play in eradicating domestic violence.
"I absolutely accept that some people have to make sacrifices to do this but I think that's humanity at its best," she said.
"Given we are the peak body for real estate, it's our role to provide leadership on this and to ask people to step up.
"We all know someone who has been directly impacted … when you look at the statistics we are all connected to this in some way.
" … Each day we sit by there is the possibility someone among us is being harmed."
The framework for the scheme will be discussed at next week's virtual COVID-19 Domestic and Family Violence Summit, along with a raft of other pandemic-specific issues that have emerged.
Ms Farmer said many people couldn't leave because they couldn't seek help while their perpetrator was in the same room and had nowhere to go anyway, citing a case in which a victim was forced to apply by phone to a judge for a domestic violence order from her toilet.
"We think a solution could be to utilise short-term lettings that are currently under-utilised due to existing travel restrictions for people needing to escape to safety," she said.
Ms Farmer said community service providers were very excited about the "complete game changer" and it was also hoped thinking differently about solutions would encourage other people and industries to consider how they could help.
Housing Minister Mick de Brenni said necessity was the mother of invention.
"And right now the community is seeing a spike in DFV and some property owners are struggling with empty houses and no cash flow, creating a unique, win-win chance for the sector to develop a solution to increase availability of transitional housing for women and children putting their lives back together," he said.
Originally published as How property owners can help DV victims