National Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week begins today and its brutal to note that, in the housing space, Aboriginal Victorians continue to face extreme disadvantage.

Around one in five Aboriginal households in Victoria live in social housing compared to one in 50 in the general population.

CHIA Vic is currently working on a project to ensure the community housing sector is culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, a great resource for gaining a glimpse into what life looks from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective can be found here, at Reconciliation Australia’s Share Our Pride website.

solar installation on roof

Calls for a solar powered stimulus

A successful program that has enabled almost 700 low income households to benefit from reduced power bills could be used as the basis of a solar-powered stimulus package that could benefit more vulnerable Victorians and the environment, create employment and support the economy.

The Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic) and BOOMPower are partners on a project that has seen solar power and other energy efficiency products and solutions installed in social housing properties, including standalone properties and multi-unit apartment buildings.

With funding from the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund, CHIA Vic and BOOMPower developed the BOOM! software platform. The platform makes it easy for organisations to produce a clear business case on the impact of installing energy efficiencies, as well as providing a seamless procurement process, and measuring and verifying performance and outcomes on an ongoing basis.

Additional funding from Solar Homes and the Victorian Property Fund saw seven community housing organisations use the platform to plan and implement $3.5 million worth of energy upgrades on social housing properties and counting.

CHIA Vic CEO Lesley Dredge says, ‘People on low incomes are the most vulnerable to high energy prices. It can have a real impact on their day-to-day lives, as they can avoid using heating and cooling even in extreme temperatures, which reduces their quality of life and their health and wellbeing.’

BOOMPower Director Alex Houlston says new funding for solar and energy efficiency from the Victorian Property Fund (VPF), along with the introduction of Solar Homes in 2018 and the availability of the BOOM! platform caused a surge in the level of engagement from the sector for a range of energy solutions.

‘This is evidence a stimulus package would be welcomed; in addition to construction projects, the community housing sector has $14 million in solar and energy efficiency upgrades that are ready to be undertaken in the next six to 18 months,’ Mr Houlston says.

Based on jobs figures provided by product suppliers and retailers for the initial projects, Ms Dredge says, ‘We can confidently say that a $14 million program would also directly support up to 356 jobs.’

CHIA Vic and BOOM! are hopeful Solar Homes will develop a separate funding stream for community housing, in recognition of the fact that, unlike private landlords or homeowners, they are unable to receive any of the financial benefits of their investment in energy efficiencies.

Psst…need a good habit?

Need some help to develop good habits and overcome bad ones?

CHIA Vic is running a four-hour webinar (delivered in two, two-hour blocks) that will introduce you to the skills you need to foster positive habits, as well as giving tips, ideas and strategies for overcoming negative, unhelpful habits.

The webinar will cover the Habit Loop and how to use it to bring about positive change and the Four Laws of Habit Change and how to use them to develop and practice good habits every day. It will draw on the work of James Clear and his book Atomic Habits, and B. J. Fogg’s book Tiny Habits.

The webinar will be run by David Cherry, a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist who has helped many organisations prepare their staff to cope in difficult working environments as well as in providing support for individuals and groups after difficult incidents.

The webinar will be held on June 3 and June 17. 

Click here to book.

Get ready for the Rapid Housing EOI

 The Victorian Government will soon release its Expressions of Interest process for community housing organisations to apply for funding through its new $498 million housing package.

The government has announced funding is to repair, upgrade and build more than 23,000 of social housing units, with a further $50 million to be invested in aged care and disability accommodation across Victoria.

The funding is part of the government’s $1.3 billion Building Works package, aimed at creating thousands of jobs across the state to kickstart the economy post COVID-19.

It includes:                                     

  • $155 million for maintenance and upgrade works that can be delivered quickly – like painting and roofing – on more than 15,000 public housing properties
  • $110 million for new kitchens and bathrooms in 2,100 public housing properties
  • $50 million for community housing providers to undertake similar maintenance and upgrade work on social housing properties they manage or own.
  • $58 million to deliver brand new, shovel-ready social housing in Reservoir, Balaclava, Dandenong and Hampton Park.
  • $125 million for projects that increase housing options for women and children escaping family violence, Aboriginal Victorians, and those leaving State Government services.
  • plus, $50 million will fund maintenance and upgrades to public sector residential aged care facilities across metropolitan and regional Victoria, as well as more than 450 Specialist Disability Accommodation properties.

What you need to know:

  • The social housing projects are to start within the next six months.
  • At least 25 per cent of maintenance and upgrade funding will be earmarked for regional areas.

EOI

An Expression of Interest process will be designed to ensure projects respond to the needs of priority groups in the community and benefit communities across the metropolitan and regional areas of the state.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will release the Expressions of Interest process in the coming weeks. The process will be a rapid application and assessment process, with funding flowing to organisations to begin works as soon as possible.

 CHIA Vic

CHIA Vic has welcomed the funding and is working with the department to assist in successfully rolling out the package.

Social housing boom needed to avoid COVID-19 homelessness spike

The alliance of Victorian housing peaks has called on the State Government to act immediately to avoid a post-COVID homelessness spike, and begin rebuilding the economy.

Victoria faces a looming resurgence of rough sleeping unless the Victorian Government immediately
delivers long-term social housing options for more than 2,000 Victorians without a home who are
staying temporarily in hotels, according to Victoria’s housing and homelessness peak bodies.

The warning of a post-COVID homelessness spike comes as the group launches Make Social Housing
Work — a new blueprint for Victoria to increase its proportion of social housing to the national
average.

Victoria currently trails the nation in social housing, with just 3.2 per cent of all housing stock identified
as public and community housing. The new framework would increase Victoria’s social housing share
to the national average of 4.5 per cent of all housing stock.

To get there, the housing groups calculate the Victorian Government must commit to creating 6,000
new social housing properties each year for ten years, with at least 300 Aboriginal housing units a year.
In addition to keeping people safe and housed after the COVID pandemic, a social housing construction
blitz would provide much needed stimulus to the Victorian economy.

CHIA Victoria CEO Lesley Dredge says, “Building and investing in a stronger social housing safety net
will protect all Victorians who are struggling in the private market.

“With over 80,000 people already on the social housing waitlist in Victoria, people can be waiting to
secure stable housing for years. An additional influx of people who have lost income or their current
homes during this pandemic, will only make matters worse if the Government doesn’t urgently invest
to create more social housing.

Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith says, “We have an opportunity right now to end
homelessness for people who were sleeping rough before the pandemic and have now moved into
temporary accommodation. If the Victorian Government doesn’t urgently deliver more social housing
these vulnerable people will have nowhere to go but back to rough sleeping when restrictions ease.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in hundreds of thousands of Victorians living a new reality
of unemployment, rent stress, and homelessness.

“Victoria spends less on social housing per person than any other state or territory, and years of
underfunding has created a perfect storm for Victorians unable to afford private rental and who find
themselves without a home.

VCOSS CEO Emma King says, “These two thousand people in hotels are just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Social housing is a smart investment. It saves lives, saves jobs and saves money in the long-run,” Ms
King said.

The Housing Peaks Alliance comprises: Aboriginal Housing Victoria, the Community Housing Industry
Association (Victoria), the Council to Homeless Persons, Domestic Violence Victoria, Justice Connect,
Tenants Victoria, the Victorian Public Tenants’ Association and the Victorian Council of Social Service.
Unless we move fast to build more social housing, tens of thousands of Victorians risk being homeless
again, or thrust into homelessness for the first time.

The Housing Peaks Alliance is calling on Victorian Government to develop a 10-year social housing
plan. This will not only address the backlog of housing infrastructure and keep up with population
growth but demonstrate a commitment to a stronger, fairer Victoria for future generations.

You can view the full framework here.

CHIA Vic training is open for business

CHIA Vic still open for business

As you are aware, COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, there are an increasing number of cases in Australia and the situation is rapidly evolving.

CHIA Vic remains open and will continue to support the vital work of community housing organisations as we navigate this crisis.

To continue to operate, while taking precautionary measures to minimise the risk of exposure and spread of the virus, CHIA Vic’s office will be closed until further notice and staff will be working from home.  Staff can be contacted directly on their mobiles, via email or via messages left on the office phone on 9654 6077.  See the contact page for details.

Read more on our Corona virus page.

New RTA/VCAT expert at CHIA Vic

CHIA Vic has taken seriously our Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and VCAT expert Mark Smoljo’s threat to retire in a few months and has employed a replacement in preparation.

Jason Perdriau is taking over all of Mark’s roles relating to the RTA and VCAT and has now taken over the RTA/VCAT Help Line.

Jason is an experienced housing manager in both the community and public housing sectors and is available Monday to Friday via 0422 798 447 or email at Jason.perdriau@chiavic.com.au

If your experienced colleagues have been unable to assist you with a tricky RTA/VCAT situation, you should contact Jason. Although he is a qualified lawyer, Jason will be providing assistance based on experience in tenancy management and VCAT procedures rather than legal advice. If he believes you need legal advice, he will advise you to access the limited legal advice available for CHIA Vic members through the firm Russell Kennedy.

 

 

ROGS data unsurprising

Last year’s ROGS data has been released and, as expected, it shows very little growth in social housing numbers for 2018/19. Victoria continues to invest in social housing at a lower rate than population figures would predict. Despite 25 per cent of Australia’s population (and growing) living in Victoria, the Victorian Government was only responsible for 15 per cent of the national expenditure on housing in 2018/19. However, the Victorian Government’s expenditure on all social housing did increase to $600m, up from $539m in 2017/18.

The number of dwellings in the public housing portfolio was 64,428 in 2018/19, down from 65,064 10 years ago. This decline in stock numbers cannot be explained by stock transfers, as the only transfers that occurred during this period were properties already managed by community housing and therefore were counted in the community housing stock figures. Over the same period, community housing dwellings increased by about 40 per cent, with funding via a combination of government, philanthropic grants and borrowings.

We all know that the throughput in social housing is decreasing with very few private affordable housing rentals available. Public housing assisted 3,990 new households in 2014/15 and that figure plummeted to 2,826 in 2018/19 – a decrease of about 30 per cent. This at a time when there are over 50,000 applications on the Victorian Housing Register.

The decline in throughput was not as great in community housing over the same period. There were 2,115 new tenancies in 2014/15 and 1,953 in 2017/18 – a decrease of about 8 per cent. In part, this would be explained by the sector’s transitional housing and rooming house stock.

Community housing continues to have a higher satisfaction rating than public housing and the latter houses a slightly higher percentage of tenants with the ‘greatest need’; 92 per cent compared to community housing’s 90 per cent.

While the data is interesting, different state and territory policy and practice make inter-sector and jurisdictional comparisons fraught. Also, community housing data is subject to many qualifications and some omissions. Changes in data definitions are amongst the reason comparisons over time are also not straightforward. In Victoria, 96 organisations are invited to fill in the survey while in some jurisdictions only the registered community housing sector is surveyed. There are 38 organisations registered in Victoria with about 20,000 properties under management yet in Victoria 80 of the 96 completed the survey, reporting well short of 20,000 properties!

The Commonwealth wants to improve the quality of the data and is committed to working towards a nationally-consistent data set. In the meantime, this is the best we have. CHIA Vic will continue to liaise with Department of Health and Human Services to improve the Victorian collection.