Homelessness inquiry seeks sector submissions

The Inquiry into Homelessness in Australia is seeking submissions from the community housing sector.

Submissions should be made to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs by Friday, 12 June 2020.

The Committee would particularly welcome submissions addressing the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness is Australia, and encourages community groups and others to share their experiences in responding to the pandemic. Those wishing to give evidence are welcome to prepare a short submission addressing the impact of COVID-19, to be followed by a more comprehensive submission later in the inquiry.

Click here for more information on the inquiry, including the full terms of reference.

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.

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.

 

Social housing pathways research

A new AHURI report examines pathways in, within and out of Australia’s social housing system. As part of the research, 76 past and present tenants and 33 primarily frontline practitioners were interviewed.

The report, Understanding the experience of social housing pathways, found that there are limited pathways for tenants to leave social housing for the private rental market, even for those who want to. The Australian private rental market is largely inaccessible, unaffordable and insecure for households that might otherwise have had the capacity to move on from social housing.

Read the report…

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.

 

Bendigo calls for input into affordable housing

The City of Greater Bendigo is calling for community input into its Affordable Housing Action Plan.

The council wants to better understand affordable housing needs in Greater Bendigo so it can address the growing shortage of affordable housing shortage, including utilising mechanisms to increase the supply of well-designed and efficient affordable housing.

The council has released a paper for public comment.

Click here to read the background paper and provide comment via a short survey.

Productivity Commission Stats

Community housing assisting those in greatest need

Statistics released today in the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2020 shows new allocations of community housing properties in Victoria during 2018-19 were made to households in greatest need.

Nationally, the 2018 data shows that 84 per cent of community housing tenants stated the amenity of their housing met their needs and 87 per cent thought it was of an acceptable standard (compared to 80 per cent of public housing tenants).

Click here for details.

Identifying older Aussies at risk of homelessness

A new AHURI report investigates the issues affecting older Australians who are experiencing or facing homelessness.

The research, An effective homelessness services system for older Australians identified three broad groups of older Australians who become homeless: those with conventional housing histories who experience a financial or other ‘shock’ late in life, such as eviction from rental housing, the death of a spouse, or a decline in their health; those who had experienced long-term social exclusion and had previously experienced homelessness; and people with transient work and housing histories.

One of the findings was a recommendation to expand the Assistance with Care and Housing program (ACH) as a simple first step to better support this vulnerable group.

Click here to download the report.

December VCAT update

CHIA Vic’s Victorian Civil and Administrative guru Mark Smoljo reports back on the latest VCAT news:

The new Head of the Residential Tenancies Division, Ian Proctor is very keen on improving VCAT processes and making the whole system easier to use for all parties. Improvements underway include:

  • Supreme Court summaries of important cases now being put on the VCAT website
  • a project looking at increasing the use of telephone and video for hearings
  • texts to be sent to tenant respondents at the time of application and again five days before a hearing
  • faster process for renewals of hearings. You no longer have to wait five to six weeks for them to retrieve files out of the archives in Werribee. Hearing waiting times should be the same as for new applications.
  • new information on supported disability accommodation on the VCAT website
  • major project underway to prepare for next year’s changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, including many changes to the RT VCAT Hub. Unfortunately for those of you managing rooming houses, this will mean a further wait until you can use the Hub for rooming house matters. Ian is aware of the issue with rooming houses and hopes it can be addressed later next year.
  • VCAT has a new Koori Engagement Officer – Wendy Harris.
  • a major project is being conducted on increasing the use of email communication by VCAT. They may need to investigate texting as well because many tenants don’t have email addresses.
  • a new purpose-built VCAT venue at Oakleigh is opening in early 2020. It will cover cases currently heard at Moorabbin, and some of the caseload from Frankston and Dandenong. Another new VCAT venue is under construction in Frankston. VCAT is trying to get away from the use of Magistrates Courts.
  • Portland Magistrates Court is closing for VCAT hearings. VCAT is investigating alternatives.

If you have questions about any of these developments  or you are having any issues with VCAT please contact Mark Smoljo on 9654 6077 or on a Monday or Thursday.

 

AHURI finds high rates of homelessness in vet community

Approximately 5.3 per cent of Australian veterans who left the Australian Defence Force (ADF) between 2001 and 2018 experienced homelessness, AHURI research has revealed.

This rate of 5.3 per cent, which equates to 5,767 veterans, is significantly higher than that for the general population (1.9%), and although these rates are not directly comparable, this finding strongly suggests that veterans are over-represented in the Australian homeless population. It is also much higher than the estimate of around 3,000 homeless veterans previously assumed by government agencies such as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Read more…