This is a long-form analysis of the Victorian Government’s investments in housing and homelessness. For a quick summary of specific Budget program expenditure in this space click here.
The 2020-21 Budget investments in housing and homelessness initiatives have been a tough act to follow.
That Budget introduced a nation-leading $5.3b Big Housing Build (BHB) investment into social and affordable housing, and a program that effectively halved rough sleeping in Victoria – Homelessness to a Home (H2H).
These investments coincided with the introduction of significant housing policy reforms, including new rights for renters enacted in 2021 through changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. For current and prospective social housing renters there is also the promise of contemporary regulation and support via the Social Housing Regulation Review and the development of the Ten-Year Strategy for Social and Affordable Housing (the Ten-Year Strategy) respectively.
This Budget provides sensible funding for essential initiatives to stay on track with this ambitious reform agenda, including:
- $51.3m for specialist homelessness service system reform, to prioritise prevention, early intervention and housing stability reforms. We understand this includes welcome funding for intake assessment and planning workers in Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
- $42.2m over four years for expansion and upgrade of the family violence refuge and crisis accommodation network, as well as for new supported housing models.
- $21m for additional VCAT members, building on funding to make technological improvements to VCAT in the 2021-22 Budget. Access to VCAT is an important part of delivering the Fairer, Safer Housing reforms for Victorian renters – this additional funding will go some way towards addressing the massive VCAT backlogs renters face due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and demand for hearings.
However, the 2022-23 Budget could have gone further to ensure that all Victorians have safe, stable and affordable homes.
This Budget has essentially cut funding for H2H delivery by 80%. H2H has been a highly successful program using a Housing First approach to support people sleeping rough or experiencing chronic homelessness into permanent housing. The cut to this funding is disappointing for current participants as well for the prospect of permanently embedding Housing First in the specialist homelessness sector across Victoria.
The Budget papers indicate that average wait times for public housing are over 12 months, even for those on the priority access category, and we know there are still 100,000 Victorians waiting for social housing on the Victorian Housing Register.
While the 9,000 new community homes being built under the BHB are much needed and most welcome, to address these demand pressures we need a sustained pipeline of new social housing growth over the next 10 years.
the 2022-23 Budget could have gone further to ensure that all Victorians have safe, stable and affordable homes.
The proposed social housing levy would have provided much-needed revenue to invest in new social housing, and its ultimate demise – as a consequence of fierce opposition from developers and investor lobbyists – is disappointing. We welcome an initial $2.2m of funding to make an additional $1b of low interest loans and government guarantees available for community housing agencies for cheaper debt. But direct capital investment in new social housing, in particular new public housing, is still needed.
The sector has been anticipating both the launch of the Ten-Year Strategy and the Government response to the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria, which we expect to provide the strategic direction and investment framework for social housing growth as well as the supports people need to access and maintain housing.
VCOSS continues to advocate for the adoption of a wellbeing approach to budgeting, which is well suited to guide the structural change needed to ensure that all Victorians have safe, stable and affordable homes.
This approach would invest in initiatives across government such as reforming planning and building laws, rethinking land tax, building new social housing, addressing housing affordability, supporting financial wellbeing, and embedding strong tenancy rights in all types of housing, as well as the range of health and social supports to address issues that place people at risk of housing insecurity and homelessness.