South Australia is rushing to build new public housing as its waitlist grows. 

Work has begun as part of a $177 million plan to build 400 new public houses, but the state is grappling with a public housing waitlist of over 17,000 people. Nearly 4,000 of those people have been deemed to be ‘category one’, meaning they are in urgent need of shelter. 

Plans for just 44 homes have been given the green light so far, to be located in Kilburn, Woodville Gardens, Parafield Gardens, Salisbury Downs, Elizabeth Park, Elizabeth East, Elizabeth South, Elizabeth Downs and Morphettville.

The SA Government says contracts will soon be signed for another 33 homes in metropolitan Adelaide and regional areas, including Mount Gambier, Murray Bridge and Mount Barker. 

Out of 400 new homes, 200 will be built in greater Adelaide, 150 in regional areas and 50 for people experiencing homelessness. 

Human Services Minister Nat Cook concedes that people are in urgent need, with many seeking to flee domestic violence, dealing with disabilities, and mental health problems. 

“All of those co-existing situations are taken into account when we are assessing who requires the most urgent attention,” she said. 

“Every day my office works in collaboration with community service providers, local advocates, families and the housing authority to ensure that people's situations are truly and accurately reflected within that category.

“You see people jumping up in categories overnight because of some sort of catastrophe that happens in their life and we have to make sure that we have a service-provision model that is able to be proactive and reactive at the same time and that's what I believe we're doing now with the investments.”

The government has pledged to carry out major upgrades on 350 vacant homes and fix up 3,000 properties for public use. 

“We live in a great state, in a First World country, and we can't have a situation where people literally are homeless. We can afford to do more,” Premier Peter Malinauskas said. 

“That's why we went to the election with a substantial boost in funding for public housing in the state and we're now rolling it out as quickly as we can because we know the urgency that exists within the community.”

Housing Trust Tenants Association assistant secretary Julie Macdonald says the situation is worsening. 

“It's getting worse. We've got so many homeless people because they can't afford to rent privately so there's more people out there waiting for housing,” she said. 

“The people on this list are couch-surfing. They're living in their cars. They're on the street. They're desperate for housing.

“Rent relief needs to rise because people just can't afford the rents that have gone up so badly.

“We have got so many people in this state who are vulnerable and homeless and absolutely just torn apart with the way housing costs are rising at the moment.”