Why Victoria should put Housing First

ANALYSIS

For those following VCOSS’s daily Election Advent Calendar reveals, today’s call is for Victoria to fully embrace housing first.

So what is Housing First?

The Housing First model works on the principle that, for people experiencing long-term and recurring homelessness and those with complex needs, immediate access to stable, safe and appropriate housing is a need that precedes all others. It should be provided with wraparound support, and without obligation for the person experiencing homelessness to first jump through conditional hoops for issues like drug addiction or mental illness.

Housing First has radically improved outcomes for people experiencing persistent and recurring homelessness, both in Australia and overseas.

What about in Victoria?

Here in Victoria, we already have large and successful programs operating on Housing First principles. Homelessness to a Home and Homes for Families support almost 2,000 people with long-term housing and wraparound support.

However, funding for these programs is set to run out in July 2023.

That’s why, this election, VCOSS is calling for all parties to commit to sustained investment in current Housing First-like initiatives, including Homelessness to a Home and Homes for Families.

If funding for current programs lapses next year, some people who are in the early stages of recovering from long-term challenges could be at risk of returning to homelessness. With no alternative housing options and no support, they’ll be spat into the tightest rental market we’ve seen in two decades, or forced to join the ever-growing wait list for social housing.

As well as locking in long-term funding for current initiatives, we’re calling for Victoria to fully embrace Housing First in the next four-year term of government by providing funding for new comprehensive models to end rough sleeping in Victoria.

We want to see ‘high fidelity’ Housing First initiatives across the state, including in regional Victorian centres that will be host sites for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Hang on, why are we talking about the Commonwealth Games? Aren’t they years away?

Yes, the games are in 2026. But preparations will cause an influx of contractors and their families move into these areas, well ahead of 2026, to work on new regional infrastructure. They will be followed by waves of Games staff, teams and tourists.

This is going to be an exciting time for Victoria, but there’s a risk that regional Victorians could be displaced from their homes, communities, and from crisis accommodation options like motels and caravan parks.

With no alternative housing options and no support, they’ll be spat into the tightest rental market we’ve seen in two decades, or forced to join the ever-growing wait list for social housing.

The good news is that we have time to head off this risk with good planning and investment – including in Housing First.

The Victorian Housing Peaks Alliance is calling for a raft of sensible reforms and commitments in the lead-up to the Games.

These include building more public and community housing, providing community-led and culturally safe housing and supports for First Nations Victorians, protecting regional renters, shoring up crisis accommodation, and committing to fair and respectful treatment of rough sleepers.

And sustaining Housing First-inspired programs that have already been shown to work.

The Commonwealth Games provide a golden opportunity to leave a positive housing legacy for Victoria.

VCOSS is the peak body for Victoria’s social and community sector, and the state’s premier social advocacy body.

We work towards a Victoria free from poverty and disadvantage, where every person and community experiences genuine wellbeing. Read more.

VCOSS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country. We pay respect to Elders both past and present, and to emerging leaders. Our offices are located on the sovereign, unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.