The head of the Victorian Tenants Union says neither major party is taking Australia's chronic shortage of affordable housing seriously in the run-up to the federal election.
Mark O'Brien has told PM the issue is not registering on the political radar, despite the National Housing Supply Council Australia saying there is a shortage of 600,000 affordable rental homes for those in lower income brackets.
has also found it is almost impossible for people on welfare to afford to rent a home.
Mr O'Brien says there was some focus on affordable housing at the 2007 election.
"That disappeared in 2010, and we've seen nothing at the moment to indicate that either of the two major parties are taking the issue seriously," he said.
Joel Pringle, from the pressure group Australians for Affordable Housing, says not enough homes being built and big increases in rents are the main reasons for a lack of affordable housing.
"Some of our recent research has shown us that even child carers, tradespeople, people working in hospitality, cannot afford rents. And that's not just inner-city areas, that's across Melbourne."
In the past five years, capital city rents have risen at twice the rate of inflation.
The lack of affordable private rentals is compounded by a severe shortage of public housing.
In Victoria, the Office of Housing has had to sell off stock to cover operating costs, and there is no budget to build new homes now the grant for public housing given under the Federal Government's stimulus package has run out.
Australia-wide, 173,000 people are on waiting lists for government housing.
Mr Pringle is calling on state and federal governments to act.
"State and federal governments are aware of the problems but solutions, whilst easy on a policy level, are politically more challenging," he said.
"We are calling on the Federal Government to establish a fund which would be direct investment in social housing and could partially be funded by a social housing bond.
"And for long-term renters there's also the need to address Commonwealth payment in rent assistance. That payment has diminished over a number of years. It hasn't kept up with rent increases, and it needs to be increased."
The chronic lack of homes has led to increases in both overcrowding and homelessness.
In the 2011 census, 105,237 people were categorised as homeless, up from 89,728 in 2006.
Homelessness can mean living on the streets, in temporary accommodation, homeless shelters or in disused buildings, known as squats.
Ben, who has been squatting for the past six weeks in a derelict building in Melbourne's CBD, says one public housing agency told him he would wait 15 years before receiving a publicly-funded home.
He says like many who end up on the streets, he has been caught in a vicious circle, unable to find work or accommodation.
"A lot of places won't let you live there unless you have a job, and it's like, well, I need a job to get a house and vice versa," he said.
The dangers of squatting were highlighted last year when a young Melbourne student, Scarlet Spain, fell through a skylight while on the roof of a friend's squat.
At the inquest into her death earlier this month, the coroner, Kim Parkinson, said there must be greater awareness of the risks of living in derelict buildings among people who are most likely to squat.
Ms Spain's mother, Victoria Ryle, told PM governments needed to do more to provide affordable housing.
"To me it seems that housing is not so different to water, and everybody has access to clean water," she said.
"People build houses where they think they can make money, and it seems to me that the planning process is a nightmare, that buildings are left empty for so long, and that's obviously dangerous."