Reducing homelessness will be in the spotlight when Mr Howarth meets lord mayors on Tuesday.
According to the most recent census, 116,427 people were counted as being homeless, up from 102,439 in 2011.
NSW experienced the biggest increase, with a 37 per cent rise, while the number of homeless people in Queensland went up 14 per cent, and rose 11 per cent in Victoria.
Mr Howarth said between 2001 and 2016 the number of people living on the street or in tents and other improvised dwellings had decreased, while severely crowded accommodation had increased.
“There are a number of areas and I’ll be focusing on all of them, but I think people on the street is important because that’s what Australians see if they’re in a capital city,” Mr Howarth said.
“They can see people on the street – they want something done about that.”
While state premiers and local government have called for urgent action to combat affordable housing shortages, Mr Howarth pointed to emergency accommodation as a crucial issue.
“What I’m hearing from people that are on the ground is that emergency accommodation is a really important issue and we need more emergency accommodation,” he said.
Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said Mr Howarth’s “positive spin” comments were not the sort of language he would use.
“There are more people homeless than ever before,” he told Sky News.
“Rather than using rhetoric like saying ‘let’s put a positive spin on homelessness’, let’s do something real about it.”
Mr Clare said governments of all persuasions had not done enough in the past to tackle the issue.