Posts

Treasurer commits to further housing initiatives

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has committed to announcing more initiatives to increase social housing stock this year, that will be in addition to the $209 million set aside for more public housing in this week’s budget.

Speaking at the VCOSS post-budget breakfast briefing, Mr Pallas admitted the government had ‘dropped the ball’ on social housing in the 1970s but that he is ‘personally passionate’ about improving the situation.

‘The fact that we have put a little over $200 million into providing more social and public housing in this budget is really a start, but there’s a lot more to do,’ Mr Pallas says.
The government is continuing to work on the Homes for Victorians initiatives, announced 18 months ago, and intends to do more, he says.

‘Our intention would be to augment that again in the near future…There will be more this year.

‘We have been working on it for quite some time. We have been looking at the offerings we have had from number of representatives in the community sector who are working closely with financiers and the State Government.

Mr Pallas says the government has been evaluating various models to improve the value and number of public and community housing properties against the government’s values and expectations.

‘My department is working to essentially reduce the range of offerings that we are interested in so we can get the community to focus in on those areas that the government is prepared to partner with to deliver more stock into the future.’

Making sure we deliver for all Victorians

The CEO of Victoria’s peak body for community housing has called on the State Government to continue to deliver a strong economy by directing some of its surplus to ensuring vulnerable Victorians have somewhere safe to call home.

Lesley Dredge says the government is rightly proud of its efforts that have led to Victoria becoming the nation’s powerhouse, leading the country with jobs, infrastructure investment and delivering a projected average $3.4 billion surplus over the next four years.

However, research shows investing in social and affordable housing as vital infrastructure provides significant economic benefits. City Futures Research Centre’s Professor Duncan Maclennan has found spending on affordable housing delivers significant savings in transport costs and increases productivity.

‘These results serve to reinforce the fact that there are no downsides to increased funding for social and affordable housing and that no one, particularly in a state as prosperous as Victoria, should be forced to live in fear on the streets or couch surf,’ Ms Dredge says.

‘Whilst it’s great that the budget is following through on the government’s pledge to build an additional 1,000 public housing dwellings, the need is much greater.

‘Our research shows that 3,000 new properties are needed each year for the next 10 years just to house those on the priority waitlist, which are households that are homeless, are escaping family violence, or have significant support needs.

‘The gap between what is needed, and what is being delivered, becomes even more stark at this time of year, with thousands of homeless Victorians being particularly vulnerable during long, cold nights sleeping rough,’ Ms Dredge says.

‘No Victorian should be forced to sleep in a park or laneway; we have the resources to house them, and they should be invested.

‘The government has titled this year’s budget, Delivering for all Victorians. We call on it to dip into the surplus to invest in safe and affordable housing for the benefit of all Victorians and the state as a whole.’

Download media release

CHIA Vic’s State Budget submission

CHIA Vic has written to Treasurer Pallis to provide input into the first budget of this new government.

We argued that this budget provides a great opportunity to build on the new government’s momentum and tackle the bleak picture for those in housing need, as outlined in the Report on Government Services released last month. The report noted:

•    Victoria spends the lowest amount per head of population on social housing – $82.94 when the national average is $166.93.
•    Net recurrent expenditure on public housing decreased from $457m in 2014/15 to $412m in 2017/18.
•    In the five years to 2018, the total number of long-term social housing dwellings (both public and community housing) increased by only 42.

Against this backdrop, funding has recently been announced for 680 new rental properties to be leased by the community housing sector under the New Rental Development Program (see press release).  The Build to Operate program, which is also part of the Social Housing Growth Fund, is at the Request for Proposal stage and we understand that the government is overwhelmingly positive about the response to this program.

These initiatives, plus the commitment to build 1,000 new public housing properties, will provide a much needed to boost to stock supplies. However, while the initiatives in train are valuable they are not enough.

Fortuitously, we have a Build-to-Operate program that has been oversubscribed with the number of high-quality proposals far exceeding the amount of funding that is available. Many of these projects are time sensitive in that they are partnerships with developers, and if funding is not made available in this round then the project will not proceed at all.

We urged the Treasurer to allocate additional funding to allow all of the projects to proceed.  This would be a quick win for the government where no departmental design or development work would be required as all the systems and staff are in place.

In addition to more funding for the Build–to-Operate program, we would like to see funding allocated in the State Budget to:

•    deliver the Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework
•    evaluate the current inclusionary housing pilot and identify more parcels of government land for a further round
•    implement the Community Housing Industry Transition Plan.

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.’