Sector Slams Social Housing Spending at All Levels of Government
23 January 2019 at 3:34 pm
Victoria spends less than any other state in Australia on social housing, new research shows, with the community housing sector labelling the figures a “damning insight” into years of neglect on the issue from both state and federal governments.
On Tuesday, the Australian Productivity Commission released the Report on Government Spending (RoGS), with key findings revealing Victoria spent just $530 million on social housing, behind New South Wales ($1.37 billion), Queensland ($629 million) and Western Australia ($829 million).
Taking population growth into account, Victoria’s spend per person on social housing was $82.94 in 2017-18, compared to the national average of $166.93.
The peak body for homelessness in Victoria, Council to Homeless Persons’ (CHP) slammed the report, and called for an emergency commitment to social housing in the May state budget.
“It’s patently obvious that homelessness will continue to increase without an ambitious plan to grow public and community housing in Victoria,” Jenny Smith, CHP CEO, said.
According to the report, since 2014 social housing units have declined by 200, a statistic Smith said was putting homelessness services under increased strain, and resulting in one-in-three people in Victoria being turned away.
“Our services have more people coming to them for help, and fewer social housing units for them to access. It’s not rocket science – we just need more housing that is affordable to people on the lowest incomes. That is a job for government,” she said.
Daniel Andrews last year committed to building 1,000 new public housing units over the next three years, despite calls from the sector to build 3,000 each year, for the next 10 years.
“With 38,000 applicants on the social housing wait list, it’s going to take far more than 330 homes per year to get that wait list down to zero. We need action which reflects this state of emergency,” Smith said.
Federal Assistant Social Services Minister Sarah Henderson said on Tuesday Victorian Labor had to fix the disconnect between its low expenditure on social housing and its massive waiting list.
“It is imperative that Labor starts to deliver the investment in social housing which Victorians deserve,” Henderson said.
But Kate Colvin, spokesperson from Everybody’s Home, told Pro Bono News while it was clear Victoria’s spending was too low, the report showed the federal government’s spending ($2 billion) was half of the states and territories ($4 billion).
“States and territories are spending more than the federal government. Not to say they couldn’t do more, but it’s clear the federal government could do more and should do so today,” Colvin said.
“This is clearly a problem across the whole country… so we’re calling on the government to have a growth fund specifically for social and affordable housing, and we would like to see action on that.”
Adrian Pisarski, CEO of National Shelter, also told Pro Bono News the federal government needed to step up its funding game.
“What I found interesting was the fact that the states spend at least twice as much on the social housing system as the Commonwealth does. The Commonwealth is still complaining that the states don’t do enough when clearly there’s a need for the Commonwealth to do more,” Pisarski said.
He said it was “critical” this issue was pushed to the front of the federal election campaign.
“Even with the provision of Commonwealth Rent Assistance some 43 per cent of renters are still in housing stress, paying more than 30 per cent of their household income on their housing costs, so renters could decide the outcome of this federal election,” he said.
Colvin encouraged the sector to reach out to their local representatives to make their voices heard.
“What the RoGS is showing us is there’s a lot more that needs to be done, so the sector can reach out to their local representatives and be part of asking them to do more,” Colvin said.
Following the report, Victorian acting minister for housing Lily D’Ambrosio announced on Wednesday that 680 new long-term rental properties would soon be available across the state as part of the Andrews government’s Social Housing Growth Fund.
D’Ambrosio said the rental properties would be leased from the private sector, increasing the availability of social housing rental stock and facilitating investment in new social housing for the rental market.
“This project is building on the strengths of the community housing sector, unlocking both investment in the residential market and housing for those who need affordable rental properties,” D’Ambrosio said.