By Lew Wheeler
There is an affordable housing crisis in Victoria as elsewhere in Australia and homelessness is on the increase. Fewer households in Australia are able to afford a place of their own with 657,000 low-income households in rental stress and a further 318,000 low-income households in mortgage stress – in total close to 1 million people are living in housing stress. The facts are just as grim in Victoria.
Homelessness in Victoria
The Council to Homeless People report that in Victoria on Census night 2011:
- 22,789 people were counted as homeless, including 1,092 people ‘sleeping rough’ (without any shelter or accommodation at all).
- almost half were young people under 25.
- almost one in six Victorians counted as homeless was a child under 12.
- people aged 55 or more made up 2,710, or approximately 12% of the population in the 2011 Census. For further information.
Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) continues to report that the rate of homelessness among older people is growing fast, especially among single older women.
The facts are grim yet too many of us walk past those sleeping rough – the visible proof of these crises – as if they do not exist.
Homeless Victorians setting up a makeshift camp outside Flinders Street Station Melbourne were removed by the City of Melbourne over a number of days in late January 2017.
Instead of addressing and seeking long-term solutions to the Victorian homelessness crisis by providing housing ,these Victorians remain demonised and criminalised as drug users, aggressive beggars and lay-about.
This is what the City of Melbourne has done so far.
City of Melbourne (Council)
In December 2016, Council committed an additional $2 million to address the ongoing crisis of homelessness in the city. They said, “we will use this money to work closely with the Victorian Government and the homelessness service sector to improve our on-street response to rough sleeping and provide more housing and services that will help people exit homelessness”.
These funds were meant to assist the 1300 homeless people in Melbourne CBD of whom over 200 were sleeping rough.
These funds were too little too late and our so-called leaders turned back to law enforcement not only blaming homeless individuals but also proposing.to criminalising them.
Homeless people found illegally camping could be fined $250 or a court fine up to $2,000.
Fines for people who have little or no money, who may be suffering ill health,the victims of domestic violence or just lost their job and/or home is a nonsense and purely punitive and callous. It is outrageous.
These draft amendments to the Activities Local Law 2009 proposed by City of Melbourne would reintroduce a very bitter version of the old vagrancy laws.Council endorsed the proposed amendments 7 February 2017 and calle for a month long community engagements to 17 March 2017. Following a flood of submissions – over 2,200 – it was resolved at the 6 April 2017 Submissions Committee meeting:
That the Submissions (Section 223) Committee (Committee):
1.1 Calls on management to commission a Human Rights Charter –
- Assessment of Compatibility on the current proposed changes to Council’sActivities Local Law and provide such assessment to the Committeemembers within the next four weeks, to assist the Committee in its considerations.
1.2 Resolves to adjourn this meeting until 3 pm on Wednesday 24 May 2017 to allow enough time for the Committee members to consider all the verbal submissions and over 2000 written submissions received.
These draft amendments to the Activities Local Law 2009 proposed by City of Melbourne would reintroduce a very bitter version of the old vagrancy laws.Council endorsed the proposed amendments 7 February 2017 and called for a month long community engagements to 17 March 2017. Following a flood of submissions – over 2,200 – it was resolved at the 6 April 2017 Submissions Committee meeting:
That the Submissions (Section 223) Committee (Committee):
FGFP is keeping a watching brief on developments.
Affordable Housing in Victoria: Some Facts
Shortage of affordable housing
The shortage of affordable and available housing stock in Victoria was 51,800 in 2011 with estimates suggesting that 30,000 additional affordable dwellings will be needed over the next 10 years.
Public housing waiting lists
In November 2016, there were 33,073 people on the Victorian public housing waiting lists of whom 10,338 people were seeking emergency accommodation (now called priority) and 22,735 people registered for housing.
According to the Department of Human Services, Victoria it works in partnership with the not-for-profit community housing sector to provide affordable housing for Victorians on low incomes. “The main housing providers in the community housing sector are:
- Registered Housing Associations, which develop, own and manage rental housing properties; and
- Registered Housing Providers, which primarily manage rental housing owned by other organisations
- Registered Housing Agencies (now) manage around 16,000 rental housing units around Victoria.
Victorian state government response
Some of these agencies specialise in providing accommodation to specific target groups such as people with dissability, singles or older people.
The Victorian State Government (Victorian Government) belatedly acted to both the deepening affordable housing and homelessness crises with .
In the interests of those unable to afford private market rents and those left languishing on public housing waiting lists some $600 million was provided towards affordable social housing in December 2016.
On 27 January 2017 the Victorian government announced an additional $10 million funding for immediate action to ensure housing and support is provided to rough sleepers in the City of Melbourne with a new emergency response package. This new funding would immediately rapidly rehouse 40 vulnerable rough sleepers in inner Melbourne and provide them with targeted supports to maintain their housing. Learn more at:
FGFP asks what of the remaining 160 rough sleepers?
On the 23 February 2017 the Victorian Government announced a new investment approach giving “social housing organisations more power to build, buy and rent homes for vulnerable Victorians”. From next financial year, this policy approach aims to enable these organisations to “utilise a $1 billion fund and access low interest loans using the borrowing power of the Victorian Government.” It is estimated that 2,200 households will be assisted.
On 27 February 2017, the Victorian Government brought forward part of its affordable housing strategy announcing the release of 100,000 housing blocks in the North West and South East to develop 17 new suburbs. All blocks will be released by late 2018. More is to follow including an investment model with funds to support those struggling to enter the housing market to get a place of their own.
Between 2 – 5 March 2017, the Victorian Government released details of Homes for Victorians providing a co-ordinated approach across government, and across the state. As the Government reports it includes:
- “abolishing stamp duty for first time buyers on homes up to $600,000 and cuts to stamp duty on homes valued up to $750,000
- doubling the First Home Owner Grant to $20,000 in Regional Victoria to make it easier for people to build and stay in their community
- creating the opportunity for first home buyers to co-purchase their home with the Victorian Government
- making long-term rental leases a reality
- building and redeveloping more social housing – supporting vulnerable Victorians while creating thousands of extra jobs in the construction industry.
Homes for Victorians builds on existing work being done, including the soon to be released Plan Melbourne 2017-2050, reform of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, the Better Apartment guidelines and the Family Violence Housing Blitz.
The Victorian Government states that every Victorian deserves “the safety and security of a home”.
FGFP completely agrees that every Victorian deserves “the safety and security of a home” and urges this government to get on with it.