Goal: Everyone can find a secure, affordable and appropriate home.
The best way to help someone achieve a good life is by finding them a safe place to call home. Every other life achievement is built on this bedrock. Homes are places to raise our families, express ourselves and store our memories, and stay safe, warm, clean and healthy.
Yet, for many Victorians, this basic human need is a luxury they can’t afford. Nearly 25,000 Victorians are homeless on any given night. Another million live in housing stress. Rising rents and stagnant social housing growth have made the problem worse.
Creating affordable housing, ending homelessness and making renting fair gives every Victorian a better chance at a great life.
Delivering affordable housing
Housing is the most important thing for Victoria to get right; the happiness of every single Victorian depends on it.
Forge new beginnings with 3,000 new homes each year
Over the next decade, Victoria can forge new beginnings by building 3,000 extra public and community homes each year. Just like roads and rail, Victoria needs to view our public and community housing as critical infrastructure. But neglect has left it to decay and become dangerously inadequate for Victorians’ needs. Victoria will need 3,000 public and community homes each year just to meet the needs of people eligible for priority housing.
Victoria has a chance to transform: after decades of being Australia’s housing laggard we can start leading the nation by providing the capital investment and recurrent backing to create a public and community housing system to be proud of.
Include public and community housing in new developments
One of the most effective ways of accelerating public and community housing growth is by challenging the private sector to contribute to the task. Inclusionary zoning means compelling developers to include social housing among their new apartments. Victoria builds 30,000 new units every year; making just a few per cent of these units social housing would go a long way towards ensuring every Victorian has a place to call home.
Make new homes age and disability-friendly
Victorians deserve homes where they can age gracefully: homes that suit diverse community needs, including for people with disability. Our housing standards aren’t up to scratch for this task.
The good news is this can be easily fixed. Very simple changes to the building code – such as requiring adequate door widths, a clear access path to the front door and a stepless shower recess – can make homes more easily adaptable to accommodate people’s changing abilities. Adapting a home can be 22 times cheaper with these basic features in place.
Reform property taxes to promote housing affordability
Our antiquated system of property taxes is leading to millions of dollars being lost to our economy, and too many Victorians missing out on achieving their housing dreams. Stamp duties encourage property speculation, dampen economic activity, fall heavily on young home buyers, and discourage people moving to better homes or new jobs. They also create budget nightmares for governments, being prone to drastic drops in revenue if the property market stalls.
To move to a fairer, more efficient and stable property tax system, the Victorian Government should, over time, replace stamp duties with a broad-based land tax. This should occur with appropriate concessions, exemptions and deferrals, particularly for low-income households that may be asset-rich but income-poor.
Creating a Victoria without homelessness
Victoria can be Australia’s leading state in combatting homelessness. It is shocking that nearly 25,000 Victorians are homeless on any given night, including over 1,000 sleeping rough. This is a problem we know how to fix.
Nip homelessness in the bud
The first step towards ending homelessness is to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. This means having services to help people as soon as their housing comes under threat, rather than waiting until they are living on the streets.
We can bring together and properly fund our fragmented, overstretched homelessness prevention services. These can ‘wrap around’ people at risk of homelessness, and include tailored assistance, legal help, and financial advice and support. People facing eviction, foreclosure or sudden income loss can get help with legal and financial advice, while also resolving tenancy problems and being connected to intensive support services.
Combine talents and offer ‘housing first’
To tackle entrenched homelessness, Victoria needs to bring together the expertise of different professionals, including homelessness workers and healthcare professionals, to immediately deliver the right package of voluntarily accepted assistance.
This entails a ‘housing first’ approach, meaning people are offered permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible, combined with the multidisciplinary support to stay housed and avoid becoming homeless again.
A permanent supportive housing model can operate on ‘step-up, step-down’ principles, meaning housing support can be intensified when people have difficulties, and can be reduced when it becomes unnecessary. This includes assertive outreach and engagement providing a path to permanent housing, combined with assessment, care planning and integrated service provision.
Don’t let people leave with nowhere to go
Victoria has a special responsibility to those in its care. People leaving hospital, prison or out-of-home care should not be pushed out into the cold with nowhere to go. People leaving these institutions are often particularly vulnerable, and without stable, affordable housing. They have a high risk of homelessness or of returning to an institution soon after leaving.
Fixing this problem needs better planning from those institutions, and a pool of available long-term homes for people to go to.
Making renting fair
Victoria can secure better homes for Victorians by strengthening rentals laws. With more Victorians renting for longer, including more families and older people, renting is no longer just a short-term housing choice. New, stronger rental laws can provide better protections for life-long renters, allowing them to make a home, raise a family, and keep comfortable, safe and healthy.
Set a benchmark for liveable rental homes
Setting minimum health, safety and energy efficiency standards will systematically improve the quality of rental housing. This will improve the health and safety of Victorians renters, and help reduce their energy bills.
Standards can include basic features such as a working toilet and stove, locks on external doors, proper airflow, draught-proofing, ceiling insulation and efficient heating. Gradually introducing minimum rental standards over time can ease any price impacts.
Prevent people being needlessly forced to leave their rental homes
Victoria can strengthen our rental laws to prevent people being unnecessarily forced from their homes. With some people renting all their lives, they need to be able to plan for the future with certainty, settle down, and make a home for their families and pets.
Victoria should make sure eviction is only used as a last resort, when all avenues of saving someone’s home have been exhausted. Law reform can give more power to tenants to defend against needless evictions, stop evictions for no reason, compel landlords to make proper repairs, and let renters make and enjoy their homes without interference.
Streamline problem-solving in rental disagreements
A Housing Ombudsman could be a more engaged, investigative and problem-solving regulator, overcoming the fear and complexity many people experience dealing with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
A Housing Ombudsman can be a ‘one-stop shop’ for resolving housing problems. Ideally, it would receive direct government funding, be vigorously independent, report and speak publicly and have strong powers to resolve complaints. This includes the power to investigate problems, make binding orders and launch inquiries into systemic problems in housing.