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By Llewellyn Reynders.
Published on the VCOSS Voice on 3 May 2017.
The 2017 Victorian Budget largely funds the previously announced Homes for Victorians policy, including expanded social housing. The unprecedented investment in family violence also includes additional funding for social housing, homelessness services and crisis accommodation.
This budget builds on previous announcements, allocating funds for public housing estate redevelopments, including sites in Flemington, Brunswick, North Melbourne, Heidelberg West, Clifton Hill, Brighton, Prahran, Hawthorn, Northcote and Ascot Vale. The budget also proposes management transfers of public housing dwellings to the community housing sector.
This budget cements a renewed commitment to expanding social housing, acknowledging that building houses takes time, with the government only projecting an increase of 254 social housing dwellings in 2017-18, slightly less than the 289 expected in the current financial year. Overall, funding for DHHS housing assistance output rises by $70.9 million, or a 9.4 per cent increase after adjusting for inflation and population growth.
Social housing growth fund
The Victorian Government will establish a perpetual housing fund, spending the interest received on social housing projects. This is expected to generate 2,200 social housing places through construction or rental subsidies.
Cost: $1b in capital
Community housing loans
The Victorian Government will directly loan $100 million to community housing providers, and guarantee private loans up to $1 billion, to help expand community housing.
Cost: $2m in 2016-17 for administration
Community housing property transfer
The Victorian Government will undertake management transfers of 4,000 public housing properties to the community housing sector.
Cost: $3m in 2016-17 for administration
Inclusionary zoning trials
The Victorian Government will undertake two steps towards inclusionary zoning: a trial attached to government land sales generating 100 social housing dwellings, plus developing a voluntary scheme for local government in planning legislation and fast track approvals.
Cost: $6m in 2017-18 ($8.4m over five years)
Improved crisis accommodation options
The Victorian Government will fund the transition of 13 family violence refuges to individual crisis accommodation by 2020, plus building two new Aboriginal family violence refuges and commence operation of two youth refuges.
Cost: $15.2m in 2017-18 ($83.1m over four years)
Long-term housing for family violence survivors
The Victorian Government will fund an additional 110 public housing properties for family violence survivors and their children to leave crisis accommodation.
Cost: $48m in capital funding
Rooming house upgrades
The Victorian Government will fund additional rooming house upgrades in both the public and community sectors.
Cost: $20m in 2017-18 of both capital and operating funds
Shared equity scheme trials
The Victorian Government will trial two shared equity schemes, including funding 100 people to participate in an existing national scheme: BuyAssist. It will also fund a new Victorian scheme called HomesVic, which will facilitate up to $50 million worth of shared equity loans for around 400 people.
Cost: $6m in 2017-18 ($7.6m over four years)
Long term rental leases
Consumer Affairs will establish a new long-term lease option for private rental housing, along with a website to match potential landlords and tenants, and investigate an intermediary service.
Cost: $0.9m in 2017-18 ($1.2m over four years)
Other parts of our Budget Analysis include initiatives helpful to housing security, including flexible support packages under Family Violence and stamp duty concessions and a new vacancy tax under Revenue.
Build more social housing
This budget has finally recognised Victoria’s dire need for more social housing, and is a great start to turning around the problem, although it will take some time before it is available. Victoria has the lowest proportion of social housing in the country, and waiting times continue to lengthen. This budget targets a 10 ½ month waiting period for priority allocations, but 10 years ago, the target was six months. Social housing will need sustained investment over many budgets to meet the needs of vulnerable Victorians.
Permanent support for chronic homelessness
The Victorian Government funded a $97.8 million homelessness package in the mid-year Budget Update, focusing on services for people sleeping rough. However, tackling chronic homelessness requires a long-term support model, so rough sleepers can receive intensive support, be rapidly housed and get help to maintain their housing over an extended period.
Homelessness prevention services
Missing from this budget were resources to help people avoid homelessness in the first place. While $33.2 million was allocated in the mid-year Budget Update for private rental brokerage, Victoria needs more dedicated resources to prevent evictions, maintain tenancies and ensure people don’t leave institutions like prisons, hospitals or residential care without a secure place to live. It is far better to prevent homelessness in the first place, than to wait until people are sleeping on our streets.
Reform of private rental laws
The Victorian Government has announced measures for longer-term leases in private rental housing. Renters need secure and healthy homes, and changes to rental laws are desperately needed to improve renters’ security of tenure by removing ‘no-cause’ evictions and improving the quality and energy efficiency of rental housing by introducing minimum quality standards.