The 2016 Victorian Budget includes considerable investment in housing and homelessness in response to the Family Violence Royal Commission, in the form of a family violence housing blitz. This $152m package over two years contains many pleasing initiatives.
Affordable housing for all Victorians is the state’s next great social and economic challenge. People can’t get a decent education, hold down a job or raise their kids if they don’t have a steady home. Ensuring a steady supply of suitable and affordable housing will also help address a raft of other social and economic problems facing Victoria. VCOSS is encouraged by the Treasurer’s budget day remarks that housing and housing affordability is a “vital issue” and the Government is putting together a “comprehensive package” to be released later this year.
Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, has seen drastic rises in housing costs over the last two decades: a substantial obstacle to accommodation security for those with few resources. Not only have housing costs increased for both purchasers and renters, but the available housing at the more affordable end of the market has been increasingly located in inaccessible locations.
Housing reform is an investment in the state’s future. Critical to this reform will be an increase in social housing and in the overall supply of affordable housing. VCOSS looks forward to working with the government on this most vital policy front.
Initiatives at a glance
As part of the family violence package:
- $50.2m for 130 new social housing dwellings. This includes $48.8m of capital funding allocated in the 2015-16 financial year, allowing relatively rapidly deliver additional social housing properties
- $40m over two years for flexible family violence support packages, with $20m available in 2016-17. These packages include assistance for ‘safe at home’ initiatives, case management and perpetrator accountability which will help keep family violence survivors safe
- $25.1m over two years for accommodation for the homeless. This funding includes $21.9m of capital to construct up to 180 units of crisis accommodation for survivors of family violence. $19.5m is back-loaded into 2017-18
- $21.2m over two years for redevelopment of family violence refuges. These funds allow four community family violence refugees to be converted into a ‘core and cluster’ model, plus 24 hour staffing at up to six refuges
- $16m in 2016-17 for private rental brokerage. These funds aim to expand access to private rental housing for family violence survivors, through advocacy and assistance home establishment costs
Other housing and homelessness initiatives include:
- $10m for rooming house upgrades
This capital funding will allow three rooming houses to be upgraded to secure, self-contained community housing properties
- $10m energy efficiency retrofit program for public housing and people with poor health. The government’s ‘Saving Energy, Growing Jobs’ program includes $10m to retrofit public housing and the homes of Victorians with complex health conditions to make them more energy efficient and reduce energy bills
- $4.5 million over 3 years for Kangan Youth Foyer operations. This funding provides 3 years of operational funding for the Kangan Youth Foyer in Broadmeadows
- $0.5m towards establishing The Big Issue’s ‘Homes for homes’ initiative. The ‘Homes for homes’ initiative of The Big Issue encourages homeowners and developers to make a voluntary contribution of 0.1% of the sale price of a home, which is used to fund affordable housing
More broadly, the budget papers show:
- This budget allocates $167.5m to the housing and homelessness portfolio in total, including $95.7m of new capital expenditure. Of the remaining $71.8m operational expenditure, $40.7m is available in 2016-17.
- The overall level of operational spending on housing and homelessness is expected to significantly lift from $422.3 m in 2015-16 to $513.1 m in 2016-17, a significant rise
- The budget papers project a net increase of 222 social housing properties over 2016-17, after an expected fall of 84 properties in the current financial year.
- The Director of Housing has announced $267.7m of funding for new projects, which combines projects funded by the budget and from within the portfolio. Unusually, these no longer indicate the number of units provided. Projected capital expenditure for 2016-17 is $230.7m, down from $319.7m in 2015-16, although this is affected by the completion of several large redevelopments, including Carlton, Heidelberg, Norlane and Westmeadows.
Future policy directions
- Progress continues on the development of a common housing register, which will allow potential tenants to access vacancies in both public and community housing.
- Consumer Affairs Victoria continues its exhaustive review of the Residential Tenancies Act, which we hope will lead to significant reforms to tenancy law to protect vulnerable tenants.
- As part of the Family Violence reforms, the government has announced the establishment of a Family Violence Housing Assistance Implementation Taskforce, as recommended by the Royal Commission, to provide advice to government on housing solutions for victims of family violence.
- The government is preparing an affordable housing package for release later in the year. VCOSS looks forward to working with government on this package to include the whole housing spectrum, from reducing homelessness, social housing, affordable private rental and affordable first home ownership.