Australia

City mayors want homelessness strategy

Capital city lord mayors want a national strategy to tackle homelessness. (AAP)

Capital city lord mayors have asked Assistant Housing Minister Luke Howarth to create a national strategy to tackle homelessness and other housing issues.

The Morrison government is facing pressure to create a national housing and homelessness strategy to reduce the number of Australians who don't have a place to call home.

The lord mayors of the nation's capital cities told Assistant Housing Minister Luke Howarth that such a strategy is needed at a meeting on Tuesday.

Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said the strategy must involve all levels of government.

"It's a complex problem, and I think that unless we all work together it's going to be a growing problem as well," she told AAP.

The rallying cry came as Mr Howarth faced backlash for saying he wanted to put a "positive spin" on homelessness figures.

According to the most recent census in 2016, 116,427 people were counted as being homeless, up from 102,439 in 2011.

But Mr Howarth said the figure was still just 0.5 per cent of the population.

"I want to put a positive spin on it as well and not just say Australia's in a housing crisis when it affects a very, very small percentage of the population," he told ABC Radio National on Tuesday.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers branded the comments an "absolute disgrace", saying they set a new low in discussions on the issue.

"Scott Morrison's message via his minister to 116,000 homeless Australians is that they should be happier and more upbeat about it," Mr Chalmers said.

Social services groups also expressed their distaste.

"All day we've been bombarded with messages aghast that a minister would show such poor taste with so little real knowledge," the housing group National Shelter wrote on Twitter.

Ms Reynolds said the lord mayors understood homelessness data could be difficult to understand and their meeting with the minister was positive.

"It was a constructive meeting and the minister seemed very willing to listen and engage with us," she told AAP.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the Morrison government's designation of a minister responsible for homelessness was a good sign.

The lord mayors will meet again without the minister on Wednesday to discuss their next steps in addressing the issue.

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