Chairperson’s Bulletin No. 4 – 2016

Chairperson’s Bulletin No. 4 – 2016

New VPTA Board member
The VPTA Board has appointed a new member, Roberta Buchanan, who took office this month for the remainder of the current Board’s term of office (until September 2017). Roberta grew up in public housing overseas and has worked within the not-for-profit housing sector for over twenty years. She sees public housing as having a critical role within the wider housing system and applied for VPTA Board membership in order to contribute to advocating for a sustainable public housing system in Victoria.

VPTA role in assisting Public Housing Tenants
The recent VPTA mail-out, included with tenants’ six-monthly rent statements from the Department, has resulted in many and various calls to the VPTA office. Lots of these calls regard individual issues affecting the tenancy or property of public housing residents. These issues include maintenance requests, rent charges, unsuitable properties and disputes with neighbours.
The VPTA is able to provide a confidential telephone advice service for tenants on public housing related matters. However, we do not offer face-to-face interviews, given the limitations of our current premises which do not have interview rooms, separate offices or safe and confidential meeting spaces.
We can explain how your rent is calculated and your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. We may be able to assist you in communicating with the Department, writing letters and help with advice re completing forms. Depending on the issue you have, we are sometimes able to advocate to the Department on your behalf or refer you to a support agency. We cannot help with financial or legal advice.

Some issues, such as the rent-setting policies of the Department, are unable to be resolved by the VPTA unless the Government is willing to change them. We are advocating for changes that will provide a fairer system for public housing tenants. You can read about our position on rent charges (and other matters) by viewing our Policy Position Statements on and downloading the relevant topic.
One of the major issues that is raised over and over again with the VPTA is the lack of sufficient suitable housing to meet specific need and the long wait-list for housing in Victoria. We continue to advocate for measures to increase supply, whilst calling for Government action to address the problem.

VPTA meeting with Director of Housing
Earlier this month, representatives of the VPTA met with the Director of Housing, Nick Foa, and senior Departmental staff. The VPTA has raised a number of issues (e.g. transfers, mutual swaps) with Departmental staff that are still to be fully explored or resolved.
In our view, it would seem that the new Director is interested in working with the VPTA to address a strategic approach to service delivery improvement. This, by necessity, involves reviewing some of the Department’s housing policies and practices. The VPTA is uniquely positioned to be able to provide feedback on service delivery from tenants around the State, as we get hundreds of calls from tenants which assist us to identify what is working for tenants and what is not.

Family Violence Housing Taskforce
Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley has established the Family Violence Housing Assistance Implementation Taskforce, set up as one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The VPTA’s Executive Officer, along with other persons working within the housing sector, has been invited to participate in the taskforce, which started meeting last month.
The key functions of the taskforce include:
• Overseeing a process designed to remove blockages in access to family violence crisis accommodation by rapidly rehousing family violence victims living in crisis and transitional accommodation
• Examining the implementation of stronger models to prevent homelessness, including the delivery of Safe at Home approaches
• Designing, overseeing and monitoring the first 18-month phase of the proposed expanded Family Violence Flexible Support Packages
The taskforce has also been asked to provide policy advice to guide reform in homelessness, social and affordable housing. Read more on the Department’s website: