ABC Radio National calls for more social housing

In an article published by the ABC’s Radio National, Peter Mares,the  author of No Place Like Home: Repairing Australia’s Housing Crisis, echoes our sector’s call for increased investment in social housing. 

In the article entitled, Can Australia build its way out of the coronavirus economic slump, with public housing the priority? Mr Mares writes: ‘Large-scale programs to build social housing aren’t a short-term fix to help the economy recover from the pandemic, they are a long-term investment in a prosperous and fair society.

‘It would take a lot of money. But unless we invest in social housing, we are going to spend a lot of money anyway; we’re just going to spend in different, less effective ways as we condemn a proportion of the population to housing insecurity and rental stress.’

Click here to read the full article.

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.

AGMs in the time of COVID-19

Coronavirus social distancing and shutdown requirements have made holding an AGM face-to-face  impossible for most community housing organisations and CHIA Vic has been fielding calls from some members seeking clarity on this issue.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced a temporary (six-month) reform to the Corporations Act that will allow companies to hold virtual annual general meetings.Not-for-profit Law has created a flow chart for organisations to determine if they are able to have an online AGM or need to postpone it until the restrictions are eased.

You can download the pdf here.

The ACNC has also recognised that many charities are likely to experience issues with submitting their 2019 Annual Information Statement (and, if required, their annual financial report) by their due date and provided an extension until August 31, 2020.

You can download the ANC’s webinar, ‘Charities, the ACNC and COVID-19,’ for details.

Haven; Home, Safe quick to pivot

Haven: Home, Safe was quick to pivot its service provision when Covid-19 struck.

All employees who can, are now working from home for the foreseeable future. Those involved in, or supporting, critical operations have continued to attend their normal workplace with processes in place to help protect them and Haven’s clients. That includes operating robust protocols for health and hand hygiene, increased cleaning procedures, workplace access restrictions, social distancing, and the introduction of tele-consults.

A Virtual Concierge and tele-consult service has been installed at its Preston, Bendigo and Mildura offices.

‘The Virtual Concierge staff member welcomes clients, directs them to interview rooms, answers queries, provides assistance and schedules appointment,’ says Haven’s Communications and Marketing Director Sue Masters.

Haven’s website has been revamped, as has its intranet, HomeBase, which has a wide resource of state and federal government resources in web links and PDFs. There is tailored content for staff, with items for distribution for clients and tenants.

Staff contacted more than 500 vulnerable clients to keep them informed about Haven’s service delivery during the pandemic, using a telephone template to ensure the calls covered all required subjects in a consistent and informative way. Staff had to assess what information clients needed to ensure they fully understood the seriousness of the actions they need to take.

Haven has also launched a housing sector webinar series, Life in Lockdown, with the third  held on Friday featuring Canadian Jim Steele, the CEO of Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation.

Windsor Essex CHC is the fourth largest social housing provider in Ontario with 4708 homes housing about 12,000 seniors, parents, children, singles, and persons with special needs. Click here to view the webinar or go to Haven’s Facebook page.

RTA temporarily amended

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) has been temporarily amended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic for a period of six months from 29 March 2020. The changes give effect in Victoria to the National Cabinet commitment to a temporary moratorium on many types of eviction.  They also freeze rent increases and make a number of other changes aimed at sustaining tenancies throughout the pandemic.

These changes include the discontinuation of Notices to Vacate, voiding of notices already sent, limitation of the grounds on which a tenancy can be terminated and creation of an alternative tenancy termination process which requires an application to VCAT to seek a termination order.

CHIA Vic has provided a summary of the changes to members and assisted member organisations in adapting to the changes.  Further information will soon be available as regulations are released and CHIA Vic will be providing a briefing to the sector and practice notes at that time.

Along with these temporary changes, permanent amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act which were due to come into force by 1 July 2020 have now been pushed back and are now due to come into force by 1 January 2021. This provides more time for organisations to prepare for the amendment. It will also allow CHIA Vic time to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to address potential issues that the amendments may cause for the community housing sector and to seek further amendments to address these issues.

Download the COVIDSafe app

The COVIDSafe app speeds up the process of contacting people who have been exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19), assisting health authorities to find and contain outbreaks quickly.

Downloading the app is voluntary but the greater the uptake the more effective it will be in, potentially allowing the current movement restrictions to be eased earlier.

Click here for more information on the app and how to download it.

UK social housing provider to share COVID experience

Hear how one of the UK’s largest social housing providers is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic at a free webinar hosted by Haven: Home, Safe later today.

Haven; Home, Safe CEO Ken Marchingo AM will facilitate the webinar, featuring Incommunities’ Group Chief Executive Geraldine Howley OBE.

Geraldine leads one of the largest social housing providers in the United Kingdom with over 22,600 homes in Bradford District and West and South Yorkshire.

Since 2003, Geraldine has led an organisation which has invested over £400 million modernising and building new homes and transforming neighbourhoods.

Geraldine is a member of the International Housing Partnership and was made a Doctor of the University of Bradford for her outstanding contribution to housing across the district. She also received a national Women in Housing Landmark Achievement Award for her inspiring leadership.

Register in advance for this webinar.

 

Petition calls for ongoing increase to income support payments

Anglicare’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot has provided a unique insight into the impact embedding the temporary increase in some income support payments would have for those struggling to secure housing.

The snapshot was taken only days before the Commonwealth Government announced a temporary, six-month increase to some income payments in response to the pandemic. It found that only 3 per cent of all properties in Australia advertised for rent were affordable and appropriate for households on government income support payments.

For households on minimum wage it was 22 per cent.

For those receiving the Disability Support Pension, only 245 properties in the whole of the country were affordable and suitable.

Anglicare then recalculated the figures to see how they would be impacted if the government’s Coronavirus Supplement increase to income support was ongoing.

It found couples with children where both parents are receiving Jobseeker Payment would be able to afford more than 11 per cent of properties, up from 1 per cent.

Couples where one parent is receiving minimum wage and the other the Parenting Payment (Partnered) would see a 10 per cent increase.

Singles, including those with children, would see little improvement in affordability. The situation for those on the Disability Support Pension and the Aged Pension was unchanged, as there were no increases to their payments.

Anglicare Australia  is calling for a permanent adoption of the $275 per week increase for Jobseeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy and Parenting Payment recipients;  an expansion of the increase to cover people on the Disability Support Pension, Carers and Aged Pensioners with accommodation costs;  an expansion of the Jobseeker Payment to cover migrants, people seeking asylum, and international students; and , the creation of an Independent Social Security Commission to review and set government income payments.

The Everybody’s Home campaign is citing the snapshot results in its push to have  housing included in any stimulus package, permanently increase income support, and to keep up the pressure for long-term action on homelessness.

You can support the campaign by signing the Everybody’s Home petition.

Click here to view Anglicare’s 2020 Rental Affordability snapshot.