More than 80,000 Victorians on Social Housing Waiting List
6 June 2018 at 6:10 pm
A parliamentary inquiry has revealed that more than 80,000 Victorians are on the social housing waiting list, with debate raging over the best way to alleviate the crisis.
A parliamentary committee report into the Victorian government’s Public Housing Renewal Program was released on Tuesday, making 28 recommendations focused on community consultation, advice to tenants, planning issues and reporting of outcomes.
The report found that 82,499 Victorians were on the social housing waiting list, including 24,622 children.
Victoria has the lowest proportion of social housing units per capita of all Australian states, with about 3.5 per cent of occupied units in Victoria classified as social housing, lower than the national average of 4.5 per cent.
The report closely examined the first stage of the government program: the sale of land at nine public housing estates in Melbourne to developers, who will replace existing public housing stock with a mixture of public housing and private dwellings.
Committee chair Margaret Fitzherbert said there were a number of issues with the government’s plan.
“Community consultation has been flawed and often confusing, and many outcomes remain unclear with a promise that they will be addressed by the procurement process – which is confidential,” Fitzherbert said.
“We were very concerned by evidence that tenants were given paperwork to sign in relation to moving from their homes but were not allowed to take them away to obtain independent advice before signing.
“Unless the program becomes far more transparent than it has been to date, it will be difficult for anyone outside of government to assess whether it is successful in achieving its objectives.”
Victorian Housing Minister Martin Foley told Pro Bono News that the government welcomed the report, and called on the Liberals and the Greens to support the program to alleviate the housing crisis.
“The committee report’s findings and recommendations support the Public Housing Renewal Program’s approach to replacing unsafe public housing with purpose-built homes for some of our most vulnerable Victorians – and they deserve nothing less,” Foley said.
“The report also highlights the urgent need for more social housing – so we call on the Liberals and the Greens to stop playing politics with people’s lives, and back our plan to deliver over 2,000 new houses for people in need, create over 1,000 jobs, and improve living conditions for public housing tenants across Victoria.”
10 months inquiry – 28 recommendations – 23 Findings & not 1 word against need to rebuild run down, beyond their life, concrete housing estates. @CoalitionVic /@VictorianGreens alliance needs to stop playing politics & let us deliver better housing & better Communities #springst pic.twitter.com/dgUYp81zwM
— Martin Foley (@MartinFoleyMP) June 5, 2018
The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) backed the government’s call for the program to be supported.
CHP CEO Jenny Smith said the report’s stark findings should be a wake-up call to those opposing the program.
“Behind the numbers are children who are waiting for a home, and families with their lives on hold,” Smith said.
“A permanent, affordable home is a foundation for engaging in education, getting a job, having a stable life, and currently 82,000 Victorians are being denied that stability.”
Smith said the program would help deliver 1,778 new public homes, compared to just 617 if the land was used exclusively for public housing.
The Victorian Public Tenants Association (VPTA) also called for the program to be supported.
“By no means is the Public Housing Renewal Program perfect. Ideally, there would be a greater uplift of properties, however, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we have to be pragmatic in our approach,” VPTA executive officer Mark Feenane said.
“Around 350 tenants have already been relocated – they deserve certainty that their homes will be renewed and not left empty.”
However the Victorian Greens have strongly opposed the program.
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam labelled the program “a handout to property developers” on Twitter.
BREAKING: Labor & Libs reject Greens motion to stop #PublicHousing sell-offs, and push forward with their privatisation agenda.
We're in a $1.9bn budget surplus, yet Labor is crying poor when it comes to providing a roof over people's heads.
— Samantha Ratnam (@SamanthaRatnam) June 6, 2018
“If you read the report there are plenty of words against the Labor’s proposal to sell public land to private property developers and the flawed model,” Ratnam said.
“[The government is] selling the only land we have to build more [public housing].”
The Greens put forward a motion to block the plan on Wednesday, but it failed after Labor and the Liberal Party opposed it.
Foley said the government would respond to the committee report’s recommendations in due course.