Homelessness Tackled ‘Head On’ With 30,000 New Homes in Vic Strategy
4 October 2016 at 5:13 pm
The body tasked with creating Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy has recommended 30,000 new affordable homes be created and has put social housing as one of the state’s top three priorities.
Infrastructure Victoria released the draft of its first ever strategy on Tuesday and called for a major investment, in the order of billions of dollars, in affordable and social housing.
It estimated up to 100,000 low-income earners were currently living under “extreme financial stress” and were without access to affordable housing.
Infrastructure Victoria chief executive Michel Masson said the strategy aimed to address the “gaping and growing” housing shortage of affordable housing for Victoria’s most vulnerable by investing billions in new housing stock.
“The lack of affordable housing for vulnerable Victorians is a problem we can’t ignore,” Masson said.
“As our population grows and house affordability becomes a greater issue, this problem is only going to get worse. Immediate and decisive action is required.”
While the strategy spans 30 years, Infrastructure Victoria said housing affordability was a more immediate priority.
It said the 30,000 additional dwellings may be needed in the next 10 years.
“While additional dwellings won’t solve the entire problem, it will make a big difference and that is why we’ve made investing in affordable and social housing one of our top three priorities for action,” Masson said.
“The first step is for government to develop a comprehensive plan for providing access to affordable housing, either through subsidies or increasing supply.”
Victoria’s peak body for homelessness, Council to Homelessness Persons (CHP), said it was “thrilled” that Infrastructure Victoria was tackling the issue “head on”.
The organisation said the additional dwellings would help lift the currently “lagging levels” of social housing, which it said were among the lowest in the country.
“Victoria is increasingly a state of housed and housed-nots. Infrastructure Victoria’s proposals would deliver the change needed to enable people on low incomes to live near to work opportunities and services,” CHP CEO Jenny Smith said.
“The strategy recognises the vital role that housing plays in people’s lives. It paves a way to create more low-cost houses, not just the roads that connect them.”
Infrastructure Victoria also issued a raft of other recommendations to address the housing affordability crisis.
These include expanding rental assistance programs, refurbishing and replacing current public housing, removing planning barriers for affordable housing, introducing inclusionary zoning and incentivising private sector investment.
CHP has also been calling for similar policy changes at both a state and federal government level.
“Investing in social housing and introducing Inclusionary Zoning would make sure low paid workers can live near job opportunities, both benefitting them and strengthening our economy,” Smith said.
In addition to permanent housing, Infrastructure Victoria recommended significantly expanding crisis and transitional housing by up to 1,000 new places to support at-risk people.
CHP said investment in crisis accommodation would be most effective when delivered in conjunction with a new supply of social housing.
“We’re seeing a bottleneck of people in crisis accommodation who cannot be exited into a home because there’s not enough social housing. It’s a vicious circle,” Smith said.
“The housing affordability crisis and homelessness are two sides of the same coin. Delivering responses to homelessness without boosting the supply of affordable housing is like bailing water on a sinking ship.”
The draft strategy, open for consultation until 31 October, made 134 recommendations overall, which are worth around $100 billion.
Affordable housing for vulnerable Victorians was identified as a top priority along with increasing densities in established areas to make better use of existing infrastructure and introducing a comprehensive transport pricing regime.
Masson said, in creating the strategy, they did not “[shy] away from tackling tough issues”.
“While the cost of providing affordable housing may be significant, the cost of doing nothing will be even greater as it flows on to our welfare system, our healthcare system and our justice system – and that is a cost that will not just be measured in dollars,” he said.