Victoria’s specialist tenancy legal service and peak body for renters, Tenants Victoria, is calling for a stronger response from all levels of government to prevent and reduce homelessness and housing insecurity.
Its submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Homelessness in Victoria inquiry highlighted the systematic issues causing homelessness to increase across the state.
These included the diminishing availability of public housing, lack of alignment between public and community housing rules, lack of effective eviction prevention, lack of mental health support, failure to regulate private rooming houses and the difficulty of navigating VCAT to resolve housing issues.
Over many years, the Victorian Government investment in public housing has declined. It now spends only half the national average of other jurisdictions commitment to housing. Federal policies have capped Commonwealth Rent Assistance and restricted its use to private and community housing, so fewer people benefit.
A Lack of Affordable housing in Victoria
Tenants Victoria CEO, Jennifer Beveridge, said that lack of access to affordable housing was the root cause of homelessness.
To maintain the percentage of social housing at 3.2%, 3,500 new properties must be built each year. However, to bring our percentage of social housing back into line with the 4.5% found in other jurisdictions, we need 6000 properties.
“The lack of public and community housing is causing an increasing reliance on unsafe private rooming houses and other private rental properties by Victorians in crisis. In many cases, these properties don’t offer the safety and stability people need to keep a roof over their head and avoid becoming homeless again. Significant government investment is needed to turn this around.”
Tenants Victoria also stressed the need for greater homelessness prevention, through both homelessness and tenancy advice services, as well as better alignment between public and community housing rules and tenancy management approaches:
“All public and community housing tenants should have the same responsibilities and the same protections under tenancy laws. We need to see reforms in this area to avoid community housing becoming an insecure form of housing for low-income renters.
“Greater access to outreach support and tenancy advice to avoid homelessness is needed for public and community housing tenants, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people living with mental illness, women and children experiencing family violence and young people who have experienced out-of-home care.
“We echo the calls by the homelessness and crisis housing sector for a stronger focus on vulnerable groups who make up the majority of Victorians becoming homeless. Effective prevention and long-term support combined with a Housing First approach could see us dramatically reduce the number of people who are homeless in Victoria.”
You can read Tenants Victoria’s full submission on our submission page.