Back in 1998, when Jeff Kennett was Premier of Victoria and the state’s population had hit just over 4.5 million, the number of public housing properties across the suburbs and regions sat at 64,087. Twenty years on and many governments later, our state is now made up of well over 6 million people, however, the number of public housing properties is almost exactly the same. With little over 64,000 public housing properties still owned by the Director of Housing, our state currently has the lowest proportion of public housing in all of Australia – a fact which is staggering, considering more than 82,000 Victorians are languishing on the waiting list. Contributing to this crisis is the fact that massive house prices are locking a generation out of home ownership and creating more renters than ever before. Rents are also rising, whilst wages stagnate – creating a direct pathway into marginal housing or homelessness for tens of thousands of Victorians. As the peak body representing public housing tenants across the state, the Victorian Public Tenants Association (VPTA) is desperate to see a greater investment in public housing for Victorians in need of a safe, secure place to call home. With this in mind, we recently launched the Homes for All Campaign to shine a light on our state’s housing crisis and demand more action to address it. Ahead of the November State Election, the campaign is calling on the Victorian Government, Opposition, and Greens Party to commit to: • Build at least 2,000 new public housing properties each year over the next decade; • Renew run-down properties that are passed their use-by date, and; • Include public housing in new developments So far, the campaign is supported by over 500 community members and 20 organisations, including Victorian Trades Hall Council, National Shelter, VCOSS, Council to Homeless Persons, Justice Connect, and the Federation of Community Legal Centres. It is also supported by agencies that regularly assist Victorians most in need, despite having a lack of housing options to provide them, including VincentCare Victoria, Launch Housing, Jesuit Social Services, and Women’s Housing Ltd. Political support is also quickly growing, with public backing from the Labor Members for Sunbury, Ivanhoe and Essendon, the Independent Member for Morwell, Labor Candidates for Brunswick and Northcote, Greens Candidates for Brunswick and Richmond, and the Minister for Housing himself. In all our conversations to date, we have highlighted the need for a Housing First strategy that offers long-term, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. It has also helped to frame the debate not just as a welfare issue, but as an opportunity for the State Government to expand its pipeline of infrastructure projects and grow its job numbers and manufacturing capacity, whilst also helping more Victorians access secure, affordable housing. All too often we hear from tenants, sector colleagues, and the department itself about public housing properties in disrepair, priority applicants left on the waiting list for years, and minimal allocations due to a lack of stock. Proof of these issues include: • The 2012 Victorian Auditor-General’s report, ‘Access to public housing’, which stated that around 10,000 public homes were nearing obsolescence • The fact that average wait times for Victorians on the priority waiting list has increased from 8 months to almost 11 months in recent years, and; • The fact that less than 5,000 allocations were made into public housing in the 2015-16 period, despite 36,695 applicants The only way this mess can be fixed is through political will and significant capital expenditure. It would seem that many within the political bubble are now waking up to this fact, especially due to our growing population, cost of living pressures, and an increased focus on “housing issues” by Victorian voters. Instead of ignoring it, we want our political leaders to see this as an opportunity to lead the way and commit the capital investment and recurrent backing to deliver a public housing system Victorians can be proud of for generations to come. Because having a home gives each person the foundation they need to take care of everything else. And because every Victorian – young and old – deserves a safe, secure place to call home. For more information about the Homes for All Campaign and to sign the petition for more public housing, check out www.homesforall.com.au.