Budget ignores housing crisis

Victoria is set to retain its unenviable record of having the lowest percentage of social housing in Australia, with the budget lacking the type of investment needed to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for those on low incomes.

Chief Executive Officer of Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic) Lesley Dredge says whilst the Victorian Government is to be commended on implementing the Homes for Victorians strategy, and putting in place the architecture needed for growth in social housing, Victoria’s level of social housing will continue to go backwards.

The latest statistics show there are currently 36,742 households on the Victorian Housing Register, awaiting social housing, including 17,848 on the priority list.

‘Those figures represents only some of the Victorian households experiencing extreme housing stress – impacting on all aspects of their lives and the communities in which they live, Ms Dredge says.

‘We must address the urgent backlog of social and affordable housing in Victoria. With Melbourne growing by 125,000 people last year and housing stress increasing in our regional centres, doing nothing is just not an option,’ Ms Dredge says.

‘We need 1800 properties just to stand still and remain the worst in the country – whilst the Budget target is a drop of 45 social housing dwellings.’

Ms Dredge says there were positives to come out of the Budget, including
– rebuilding the TAFE system and aligning the training system with industry
– big investments in mental health and addiction
– further investment in health and education
– continuation of the large focus on infrastructure.

‘But without an affordable, well-located home it is hard for those on low incomes to make use of these initiatives.’

Inquiry into housing renewal

Over the last few weeks there has been increasing debate about the State Government’s plans to redevelop eight or nine of Melbourne’s rundown public housing estates.

Most recently, the Legislative Council provided a reference to the Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues to hold an inquiry into renewal program. You can read the detailed terms of reference of the inquiry here. The proposed increase in public housing units of at least 10 per cent; the impact on the existing tenants; the mix of public and private units; and, the density and loss of public space are amongst many items listed.

Scrutiny of the program is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the danger is that the program could be delayed or derailed.

Our ageing public housing estates are extremely rundown to the point of being beyond mere renovation and not acting is no longer an option. Public housing tenants deserve to live in well-located, quality housing. Redevelopments of public housing of this scale are extremely ambitious and controversial, which is why they have been in the too hard basket for too long. We believe that total replacement of the public housing on these sites with social housing integrated into new, mixed use precincts is the right outcome for tenants and the community.

We would like to participate in a constructive debate about what is possible on these sites and we believe that community housing has many positive contributions to make:

  • enhanced community engagement to provide tenants, the neighbouring community and other key stakeholders with quality information and an opportunity to have input into the redevelopments
  • increased uplift in the number of social and affordable units delivered on the sites
  • on-going place management services to rebuild communities once tenants return.

Our involvement in social housing is for the long haul so we have a vested interest in ensuring the ongoing success of any redevelopments. The recent announcement of the redevelopment of the Ivanhoe public housing estate in Sydney provides a glimpse of what is possible when government, the community and the private sector work together – see the article below.