NFPs Demand Social Housing Reform
2 April 2014 at 11:27 am
An investment in 800 additional social housing units a year is urgently required to address Victoria’s worsening housing situation for people on low incomes, according to seven Victorian peak bodies working in housing affordability.
In what has been described as an unprecedented move, the peak bodies have come together to release a plan for social housing reform in Victoria – Making Social Housing Work.
The groups are calling for a broad Affordable Housing Strategy that addresses social housing shortages, and looks at ways to expand the supply and quality of low cost private housing. Social housing is housing that is subsidised to maintain affordable rents, and includes public housing and community housing.
Their recommendations include:
An investment of $200 million per year for 20 years in additional new social housing;
Transfer of stock from public housing to community housing to introduce new revenue while maintaining existing stock and current tenants;
Changes to private tenancy laws to make private rental more secure;
Making the National Affordable Housing Agreement work better by including other Commonwealth housing programs in it;
Making the National Rental Affordability Scheme a permanent program as it contributes to the supply of new affordable housing stock;
Reforms to Commonwealth taxes so that the $45 billion in indirect tax assistance each year to investors and homeowners contributes to the supply of new dwellings;
Replacing stamp duty with a flat land tax, to stimulate investment in large scale rental housing, and ease the tax burden on homebuyers when they can least afford it;
Measures to improve the financial problems in public housing, and change the way the Government delivers housing services.
“The private rental market is failing to meet the needs of low and middle income Victorians, and it’s getting worse,” Executive Officer of Community Housing Federation of Victoria, Lesley Dredge said.
“The equivalent of the entire population of Bendigo is now in housing stress. One in seven Victorians today cannot afford their housing costs.
“Only two per cent of Melbourne rental homes are affordable to working sole parent families, and there is a shortage of low cost private rentals of around 50,000 homes.
“Our plan would boost Victoria’s housing supply in order to address the urgent needs of the most disadvantaged in the housing market.”
VCOSS Chief Executive Officer Emma King said an investment in new housing stock was urgently needed.
“Victorians facing homelessness or escaping family violence or those who are unable to get by in an increasingly unaffordable rental market need a social housing system that works,” King said.
“High rental costs and a lack of security in the private market are exacerbating homelessness, and putting more people on the public housing waiting list.
“The crisis is placing further strain on Victoria’s social housing system, which needs sustained investment from both State and Federal Governments if we are to turn it around.
“We need a vision for the future that all political parties and levels of government can get behind to create the social housing system that Victoria needs.
“Housing insecurity is driving growing numbers of people to seek emergency assistance and has significant flow-on effects across the Victorian community and to the economy.”
The peak bodies said the Victorian Government had acknowledged the crisis in public housing two years ago after the Auditor General found the system was failing. The bodies have called for social housing investment to be prioritised in the State Budget.
“The proposal for expenditure on additional new social housing is an achievable capital investment if we are serious about developing the system we need,” they said.
“With Victoria facing severe housing pressure, job losses through the decline of manufacturing, and a shortage of new major projects – an investment in social housing would not only alleviate the housing affordability crisis it would help provide a timely economic stimulus,” they said.
In March, the Victorian Government announced it would upgrade 9,500 public housing properties as part of its program called New Directions for Social Housing: a Framework for a Strong and Sustainable Future.
The Minister for Housing Wendy Lovell said the upgraded would take place with an investment of $1.3 billion over five years in renovations and maintenance of stock.
Emma King, from VCOSS, said the Government’s focus was on maintaining existing housing stock but it doesn’t have a program for growth.
“What we urgently need is a broad affordable housing strategy,” she said.
The NFP plan, Making social housing work: Better homes for low income Victorians, is online.