This budget delivers the Victorian Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy, announced in January 2018. It also extends housing initiatives for family violence, maintaining commitments arising from the Royal Commission.
While last year’s budget delivered significant housing investment, this is not yet producing growth in social housing. The Budget forecasts a worrying decline of 208 social housing dwellings next financial year, a net reduction of $8.2 million in spending on housing assistance.
While last year’s budget announced $469 million in new capital expenditure projects in public housing, the figure fell to $173 million in this Budget. VCOSS has called on the Victorian Government to deliver a social housing pipeline to provide growth of 30,000 homes over the next decade.
While housing affordability requires a joint state and Australian government effort, VCOSS will be looking for more announcements in the lead-up to the state election in November on social and affordable housing and support for people experiencing homelessness.
This is critical given the significant increase in homelessness and housing stress. The day before the Budget, Anglicare released its Housing Affordability Snapshot Report, showing there were zero affordable rental homes in Victoria for a single person living on Newstart.
- Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan
$12.1 million ($26.1m/4 years) towards the Action Plan, including multi-disciplinary homelessness response teams, modular housing, additional accommodation projects and housing head-leasing.
- National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA)
$23.9 million for the first year of the NHHA. Additional funds will need to be allocated once the agreement is signed with the Commonwealth for future financial years.
- After-hours refuge responses for victims of family violence
$6.4 million ($27.7m/4 years) to continue funding 12 refuges to operate after-hours crisis accommodation, when women and children fleeing family violence may be most at risk.
- Central Highlands housing first response pilot
$0.3 million for a feasibility study and business case to develop a Central Highlands Housing First Response Pilot.
- Wimmera Southern Mallee family violence crisis properties
$1.3 million for additional family violence crisis properties to improve local access for women facing family violence.
- High rise fire safety upgrades
$1.6 million ($22.2m/4 years) for fire safety improvements in inner Melbourne high rise public housing estates.
Future policy directions
- Embed a ‘housing first’ approach to rough sleeping
This Budget provides $26.1 million towards Victoria’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan, launched in January. VCOSS welcomed this plan, especially the introduction of multi-disciplinary teams which could work with people experiencing chronic homelessness to provide an integrated service meeting rough sleepers’ housing, health and wellbeing needs. These initiatives can be expanded in the future.
- Accelerate social housing growth
The Victorian Government announced their Homes for Victorians package in March 2017, including $2.1 billion in a capital accumulation fund and social housing finance. These allocations have not yet resulted in significant housing construction, and VCOSS looks forward to more information about their roll-out.
VCOSS advocates for the Victorian Government to develop a social housing pipeline, capable of producing 30,000 extra homes over the next decade. Housing construction takes a long time to plan, approve and build, and only with a strong pipeline of projects can we build enough homes. This will be easier to achieve if we introduce mandatory inclusionary zoning policies, which require apartment developments to include a minimum proportion of social housing properties.
- Better protect renters and introduce minimum health, safety and energy efficiency rental standards
VCOSS wants to see action on private rental housing to strengthen security of tenure and protect tenants’ rights. Minimum health, safety and energy efficiency standards are also needed. The Victorian Government announced significant reforms in November 2017, and we look forward to these being tabled in Parliament before the state election in November.