Having a safe, secure and stable roof over your head is life-changing, just ask Courtney Fisher and Nathan Chandola.
They're among the tenants who will soon move into a recently completed social housing project in Warilla, which had its official opening on Friday, July 21.
The 20-unit building is on the site of the old police station on Lake Entrance Road, and it will provide homes to people under 24 years and young families who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
"For me, this building, being able to live in a two bedroom unit with my partner, to have my little brother stay over, live together independently as a family it's just amazing. You have no idea, it's just life changing," Ms Fisher said.
Ms Fisher uses a wheelchair to get around and while her current bedsit is accessible, there's only room for one person and it's short-term accommodation.
For years she's struggled to get a suitable, accessible rental in the private market and has had no success.
As a test, Ms Fisher upped her potential rental spend to $1000 a week on a real estate search engine to see if she could find any suitable, accessible rental properties in the Illawarra. There were none.
"I've been looking for the past seven years," she said. "Everywhere has stairs, everywhere has a hob in the shower.
"It's just really disheartening to go every week looking for rentals and finding absolutely nothing to suit me. It's like the world isn't made for me, I don't fit in it."
Mr Chandola's had some challenges in life and it's meant he couldn't afford a private rental through a real estate agent.
For a while now he's been assisted by Family Services, something he's very thankful for.
"I've been very fortunate and grateful to have their support for about four years now," he said.
"It's just really disheartening to go every week looking for rentals and finding absolutely nothing to suit me. Like the world isn't made for me, I don't fit in it."- Courtney Fisher
The new tenants are both at uni - Ms Fisher completing a Bachelor of Community Services and Mr Chandola a Bachelor of Creative Arts and Music - and they hope a safe place to live will help them successfully complete their studies.
The units were constructed thanks to NSW Government funding of $4.8m, federal funding of $5.6m and additional funds from Southern Youth and Family Services (SYFS).
SYFS CEO Narelle Clay told the Illawarra Mercury she was thrilled to finally be welcoming in tenants, that is as soon as council issue a occupational certificate.
"We've already been allocating the units and people are just so thrilled. It's such a lovely experience to be able to show people security going forward, to help them get their lives back on track," she said.
A number of politicians attended the complex's official opening, including Whitlam MP and Federal Assistant Treasurer, Stephen Jones, who said the Illawarra's housing crisis has made it very touch for young people.
"There's zero affordable housing for young people, they're either couch surfing or they're homeless," he said.
Wollongong MP Paul Scully praised the former NSW Government for contributing funds to the project.
There's zero affordable housing for young people, they're either couch surfing or they're homeless.- Whitlam MP and Federal Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones
"On many, many occasions I've been more than willing to criticise the previous government for its attitude to social housing and housing for the most vulnerable in the Illawarra, in this case they got it right and the contribution was the right thing to do," he said.
"To have the opportunity to get safe, secure and stable housing, which as we know is critical to being able to move forward and progress with your life."
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek first met Ms Clay when she was the housing minister in the Rudd government.
"I've seen her in action, when she decides that she's going to provide more housing for more young people that happens, that's Narelle Clay," she said.