This page includes a description of community housing, its history in Victoria and how it is regulated. It is useful for anyone wanting to learn more about community housing.
What is community housing?
The community housing sector is as diverse as the renters that call our properties home. The community housing sector has its origins in the grassroots activism of the 1980s, when housing organisations formed with the goal of assisting particular groups who were not well served by the existing public housing system.
Today, not-for-profit community housing organisations provide affordable rental housing to over 20,000 low-income Victorian households.
Community housing organisations draw their tenants from Victoria’s single social housing waiting list, the Victorian Housing Register, which sets out eligibility based on the income and assets of the household. Some community housing organisations specialise in housing particular groups of people, and may have their own additional eligibility criteria which assist them in targeting these households.
The majority of community housing units offer long-term rental housing to eligible renters. However, the community housing sector also provides a range of short, medium and long-term housing programs that offer different types of housing. These include: crisis and transitional housing programs, to assist people to get back on their feet; rooming houses, which are often the only housing options available to single people; and co-operative housing, which gives tenants a direct role in managing their community housing organisation.
The history of community housing in Victoria
The sector has grown organically over the last 30+ years, with periods of significant growth followed by intervals of stagnation and consolidation, reflecting the largely piecemeal approach to housing policy.
The community housing sector retains the diversity and flexibility that has always been a source of its strength, but recent years has seen a greater focus on professionalising its services. This has been facilitated by the regulatory system, which requires registered community housing organisations to demonstrate continuous improvement, and the introduction of a shared waiting list for social housing, the Victorian Housing Register.
Community housing today
Victoria’s community housing sector comprises 39 registered community housing organisations, as well as a range of other not-for-profit housing providers and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, not registered as regulated housing providers.
The community housing sector manages some 20,000 tenancies across Victoria, which has more than 65,000 public housing tenancies. Some Victorian-based community housing organisations also manage tenancies in other jurisdictions across Australia.
There are community housing units in almost every local government area of Victoria. The Big Housing Build will increase the presence of community housing in rural, regional and metropolitan areas.
Community housing tenants have a range of backgrounds and stories, from older women who have retired with minimal superannuation, people with a disability, single parents to working families in low-paying jobs. What they share is an inability to buy a home or rent in the private market.
Government oversight of community housing
All Victorian community housing organisations are businesses whose purpose is to create affordable homes for low-income renters. Many, if not all, are registered charities who report annually to the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
However, due to the significant investment made by the State Government, Victoria also established a state-based regulatory system for community housing in 2005.
This regulatory system “provides strong prudential oversight over the government’s investment in community housing and equips the Registrar with substantial intervention powers to ensure community housing assets stay in the sector” and “holds registered agencies to account against gazetted Performance Standards to ensure high-quality rental housing services and the best outcomes for tenants and prospective tenants”.
Registered community housing organisations report annually to the Housing Registrar on key performance measures, and update the Registrar regularly on any significant issues arising during day to day operations.