116,427 Australians were experiencing homelessness on Census night 2016, up 13.7% over five years. 20% of Australia’s homeless population – more than 24,000 people – live in Victoria. The number of clients assisted by specialist homelessness services (SHS) in Victoria has grown to more than 100,000 each year.
Recognising this, the Victorian Government has committed significant funds to the Homes for Victorians plan to “increase and renew public housing and address homelessness”. The $2.6 billion investment includes a number of initiatives to provide more social and affordable housing, help people at risk of homelessness to access the private rental market, and increase housing support to survivors of family violence. Per Capita welcomes this investment and acknowledges the substantial work done so far to begin to tackle homelessness in Victoria.
We also welcome the opportunity to highlight to the Inquiry the areas where gaps in policy are continuing to fail Victorians in need of housing.
The submission will address three key concerns we have with the existing policy framework: the fundamental lack of affordable housing, the inadequate income support available to people experiencing financial difficulty, and the weak regime of tenants’ rights that leaves too many Victorians vulnerable to eviction into homelessness.
In particular, our submission explores the flaws in a housing model premised on supporting people at risk of or experiencing homelessness to enter the existing private rental market using subsidies or other tools that tinker around the edges of the housing system. Instead, it recommends that the Andrews Labor government, enjoying unprecedented levels of public support, uses the opportunity to deliver an ambitious program of housebuilding rooted in a Housing First model, enshrines a human right to protection from homelessness in legislation, and explores ways to harness to power of local governments in the effort to de-commodify the housing market.
Full list of recommendations
- Increase investment in social housing to at least the national average
- Build 6,000 new public and community housing units per year for the next ten years
- Commit to mandatory inclusionary zoning
- Lobby the Federal Government to increase Newstart and related payments and index the payments to wages
- Lobby the Federal Government to increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance and index the payment to housing costs
- Fund a feasibility study and/or pilot programs/trials of a largescale cohousing model for older women
- Continue to strengthen safeguards against evictions into homelessness, particularly for families with children and survivors of family violence
- Legislate against eviction from public housing into homelessness
- Enshrine a human right to protection from homelessness in Victoria
- Invest in a Housing First program with the aim of housing all of Victoria’s rough sleepers
- Develop a Vacant Properties Strategy and investigate ways to empower local government to tackle the issue of empty properties