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Victorian election 2014: homelessness and housing commitments so far (UPDATED)

With the State election only five days away, the Council to Homeless Persons has been closely monitoring the election commitments related to homelessness and housing. To help the sector see exactly what is being promised by each party, we have collated the key election announcements for the Victorian Coalition, ALP and Greens parties, and provided a brief analysis and a summary table. This table will be updated as announcements are made. 

Note that this summary and analysis only considers new election commitments/investments. Also, given that family violence is the leading single cause of homelessness, we have included reference to each party’s family violence commitments. (NB. the Family Violence Alliance, made up of organisations behind the No More Deaths campaign, have issued a thorough appraisal of family violence election commitments here).   

In summary, there have been a handful of initiatives announced by each of the major parties, but we have yet to see a cohesive strategy which outlines how we as a community will tackle youth homelessness, eliminate family homelessness, reduce rough sleeping and address the chronic shortage of affordable housing which underpins so much homelessness.

Undoubtedly this year has seen significant media attention to homelessness issues, and the community reaction has been palpable. We know that the community wants to see real action on homelessness, but we cannot end homelessness through a series of piecemeal initiatives. CHP’s own State election platform calls for $216 million over four years investing in youth homelessness, rough sleeping, family homelessness, housing supply and support.

Analysis

The Coalition’s main commitments are $22.1 million for two new 40-bed Youth Foyers and $6 million for Kids Under Cover to help 200 young people. $3.15 million has been promised to build three new Work and Learning Centres with the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

These initiatives make some good headway in the youth homelessness space, but disappointingly little attention has been given to family homelessness, and rough sleeping has all but been ignored.

A $13 million commitment to energy efficiency measures for public housing will provide some relief to cost of living pressures for people in public housing by reducing their utility bills. Earlier this year the Coalition announced spending to repair and maintain the current public housing stock, which will slow the decline in public housing. To date there has not been investment to increase the supply of public and community housing, which makes the task of housing 35,000 people waiting for public housing very difficult. The coalition has committed $150 million to a package of family violence initiatives and programs including GPS monitoring of offenders and expanded crisis and emergency housing for women and children.

The ALP have committed $5 million to three organisations providing day programs (St Mary’s House of Welcome, St Kilda Engagement Hub and Jesuit Social Services) which replaces some of the funding lost to homelessness providers through the recommissioning of mental health services.

The ALP has committed $500,000 to The Big Issue as seed funding for a social enterprise called Homes4Homes that will encourage property owners and real estate agents to make a 0.1% donation at the point of sale. The Homes4Homes initiative is projected to create 87 new social housing properties each year across Australia (2,600 properties over 30 years).

$10 million has been promised to capital upgrades to rooming houses through a partnership with local government, and also a commitment to introduce a ‘fit and proper person’ test for rooming house operators. This includes $600,000 to upgrade the Gatwick Hotel and the provision of housing and AOD support for residents, as well as committing to keeping Elenara House open. Although this funding will make a real difference to the dozens of residents at those rooming houses, it provides no additional benefit the majority of Victoria’s 1,092 rough sleepers.

The ALP have committed to a range of rental reforms including amening the Residential Tenancy Act to provide better protection to tenants of caravan parks and moveable dwellings, and introducing longer leases (up to 5 to 10 years), which would help improve housing certainty for vulnerable people in private rental.

The introduction of a pilot of inclusionary zoning (which sees Government land sold with a caveat that developers must include a minimum proportion of affordable housing) and density bonuses (whereby developers are given approval to build a greater number of dwellings on a plot of land if some of them are social housing) is welcomed.  At this stage the ALP has not outlined a strategy for tackling the chronic shortage of affordable housing.

The ALP has committed to rectify the cuts made to the SHASP program, but no firm funding has been announced.

In relation to family violence, the ALP have committed to a $22M package of initiatives, and the trial of duress alarms and CCTV for at-risk women. This is in addition to the promise of a Royal Commission into family violence, which can be anticipated to take in issues of housing.  The ALP has committed to implement all the recommendations arising from such a Royal Commission.

The Victorian Greens have adopted a comprehensive housing and homelessness policy which mirrors the investments called for by CHP in its State election platform, including $118 million for Rapid Rehousing programs, $54 million for a Permanent Supportive Housing program for rough sleepers and $16.6 million for kids leaving care. They have also promised $800 million over four years for an affordable housing strategy. We congratulate the Greens for taking such a strong position on homelessness and housing, and look to the major parties to follow suit.

The Greens have also adopted the recommendations of Domestic Violence Victoria’s No More Deaths campaign, and promised $100 million per annum for family violence programs.

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Coalition

  • Two new 40-bed Education First Youth foyers in Geelong and & metro Melbourne - $22.1M
  • Kids Under Cover – 120 units for 200 young people - $6M
  • $3.15 million to build three new Work and Learning Centres with Brotherhood of St Laurence in Bendigo, Dandenong & Frankston
  • $13M for energy saving initiatives in public housing

$150M Family Violence package including GPS monitoring of offenders and expanded crisis and emergency housing for women and children

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ALP

  • $5 million for mental health community support centres who deliver day programs to the vulnerable. These organisations suffered from funding cuts under the mental health recommissioning process
  • $10 million for capital upgrades to rooming houses through a partnership with local government, including upgrade of Gatwick + housing & AOD support for residents ($600,000) and a commitment to keep Elenara House open
  • $500,000 to The Big Issue as seed funding for a social enterprise called Homes4Homes that will encourage property owners and real estate agents to make a 0.1%  donation at the point of property sale
  • Inclusionary Zoning pilot + density bonuses for developers building social housing
  • A commitment to rectify the funding cuts made to the SHASP program (Social Housing Advocacy and Support Program)
  • Introduce a ‘fit and proper person’ test for rooming house operators.
  • Amend the Residential Tenancy Act to provide better protection to tenants of caravan parks and moveable dwellings.

$22M investment in family violence, the trial of CCTV and duress buttons for at-risk women plus the establishment of a Royal Commission into Family Violence, and a commitment to implement all the recommendations arising

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Greens

  • $5 million per annum for SHASP ($20m over four years)
  • $2 million per annum to expand SHASP to community housing ($8m over four years)
  • $118 million over four years for rapid rehousing
  • $54 million over four years for a permanent supportive housing program for rough sleepers
  • $600 million over four years to boost public housing
  • An Affordable Housing Strategy for Victoria
  • Minimum standards on rental properties

$100 million per annum for Family violence programs as per the recommendations in DV Vic’s No More Deaths campaign ($400 million over four years)


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