RISING rents and a housing affordability crisis has led to more than 2500 households accessing homelessness services in the south-west in the past year.
The high figure has led to calls from local agencies for a commitment from local, state and federal governments to increase investment and provide 6000 new properties a year.
Rebecca Callahan from the Barwon South West Homelessness Network said the housing affordability crisis had created a dire shortage of affordable options for people on low incomes.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare specialist homelessness services collection data shows more than 2594 households in the region sought assistance from homelessness services in 2019-20.
In Warrnambool City 1309 people received support from homelessness agencies, 210 in Corangamite, 214 in Moyne, 528 in Glenelg Shire and 333 in Southern Grampians.
Hundreds of households were accommodated in hotels, caravan parks and motels as the 'stay at home option' for those without a home during COVID-19.
"In December when restrictions began easing many were asked to leave this accommodation due to an increase in demand from tourists visiting the area," Ms Callahan said.
In the south-west there are over 880 households already on the waiting list for public and community housing, according to the DHHS Victorian Housing Register.
Ms Callahan said the pandemic had shown the importance of having a home in which to isolate and receive support from community.
The factors limiting access to gaining a home are increasing as JobKeeper and JobSeeker have reduced, and the moratorium on private rental evictions and mortgage payment deferrals came to an end on March 31.
"With more and more people struggling to access the private rental market, the demand for affordable or social rental properties has outstripped supply," Ms Callahan said.
There are 492 households on the priority waiting list for social housing in the south-west.
DHHS quarterly rental statistics for September showed there were only six affordable one bedroom private rental properties available here - three in Warrnambool and three in Southern Grampians.
It's affecting young people too.
Brophy executive youth services manager Kathy Sanderson said high demand for private rental properties meant young people up to the age of 25 were the least likely to be successful in obtaining a rental property.
Two in every five people experiencing homelessness in Victoria are under 25.
"With preference understandably given to families or individuals with a rental history and income, young people are left out of the private rental market," she said.
"We need increased social housing options in our region that can accommodate singles, young parents, couples and families.
"In Brophy's experience sourcing ongoing, secure accommodation of any kind for young people and in particular single males is extremely challenging - leaving young people to circle around between crisis accommodation, couch surfing, overcrowded homes and on the street.
"We welcome additional supports and funding at this time to manage the additional crisis under COVID but actively seek longer term solutions."
The Wimmera South West region has 5.6 per cent of households experiencing mortgage stress and 6.5 per cent of households experiencing rental stress.
In 2016 Warrnambool had 11 per cent of households - 3834 - that were experiencing rental stress.
This is further exacerbating the state's family violence crisis.
A lack of long term affordable housing means family violence victim survivors and their children are staying in refuge and transitional housing for longer.
Emma House executive officer Ruth Isbel said long term and secure housing was paramount for recovery and healing.
The priority access housing waiting list in the region is 492 households, DHHS data shows.
Priority access social housing applications are those households that have been assessed as meeting the criteria for experiencing homelessness.
The main reason identified by people and children requesting support from these agencies is family violence.
The AIHW Annual report for 2019-2020 shows under key findings that 41 per cent of people have experienced domestic violence.
It is the leading cause of homelessness for women.
Salvation Army homelessness state manager Shane Austin said increasing social housing stock benefitted the whole community.
"By increasing the supply of social housing, as a community we not only are able to deliver an effective housing solution to prevent and respond to homelessness we are also stimulating local economies, generating employment opportunities for local people, during an economic downturn marked by rising unemployment," Mr Austin said.
The state government has so far failed to provide details on how $25 million set aside for social housing in Warrnambool will be spent, months after it was announced in November last year.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.