Chairperson’s Bulletin No. 1 – 2017

Chairperson’s Bulletin No. 1 – 2017

Minister for Housing announces ‘Reform, Growth and Better Outcomes for Social Housing’
On February 23rd, the Minister, Martin Foley, announced the establishment of a $1 billion Social Housing Growth Fund to provide assistance to community housing associations. Using capital provided by the Government, the returns will be used as a funding stream to build new social and affordable homes and subsidise rent for Victorians in need of housing assistance. A further $100 million in low-cost loans will also be made available to registered housing associations. The management of 4000 public housing properties will be transferred to the community housing sector.

VPTA comment:
• Any action by the Victorian Government to increase housing options for low income Victorians and reduce our high levels of homelessness is welcome
• The Social Housing Growth Fund will ensure long-term and secure funding for affordable housing. The Fund will be held in perpetuity, and the earnings of the fund (estimated to be $75 million per year when fully operational) will be invested in new housing projects
• There are already 8,000 public housing properties in Victoria being managed by community housing – further detail needs to be provided on the proposed management transfer of another 4000 properties. All of these properties continue to be State-owned
• Our major focus will be on the rights of the tenants who are impacted by this announcement. The Government has stated that “Tenants will continue to pay no more than 25% of income on rent (plus Commonwealth Rent Assistance)” – we will be asking what will happen to tenants that don’t apply for CRA. We want assurances in relation to the security of their tenancies, the affordability of their rent and their rights as tenants
• We will be working with existing tenants to ensure they are fully informed. We will also seek information on the process for new tenancies that are established and call for new tenants to have the same rights as existing tenants
• Redevelopment and replacement of ageing public housing stock are welcome, as is the Government’s stated target of a 10% increase in dwellings at these locations, but further significant growth in the public housing sector is still required to address the current shortfall that has over 30,000 Victorians waiting for social housing assistance

Social Housing Tenant Allocation Policy Framework
The Government has also announced that for community housing organisations to access the Social Housing Growth Fund or the various loan programs, they will need to adhere to tenant allocation criteria. This means that at least 75% of the allocations made by community housing will need to come from priority applicants on the Victorian Housing Register. The VPTA believes that both the public and the community housing sectors must allocate housing to those who are most in need. We have worked hard on this issue over recent months and think that the Government has achieved a reasonable balance.

Public Housing Renewal Program – Tenant Consultation
The VPTA is engaging with tenants living on public housing estates that the Government has announced are to be redeveloped. We have been participating in the DHHS “Pop-In” Information Sessions for tenants in Flemington, West Brunswick (Gronn Place), Ascot Vale (Wingate Estate), Northcote (Walker Street) and Heidelberg West (Bell/Bardia and Tarakan Estates). The VPTA is committed to maintaining a presence at these forums, both to be available to tenants who wish to speak to us on-site and to hear what DHHS representatives are telling them. We are speaking to tenants and conducting surveys at these forums to better understand what issues concern tenants most. Tenants are also welcome to contact us via phone on 1800 015 510.
Additionally, VPTA staff are attending Community Leaders’ round-table sessions in these locations, to better understand the Department’s planning and to engage with key stakeholders in these local communities to better understand the challenges ahead.

The Value of the VPTA
It’s not just the “big” issues; sometimes it’s the “small” things that the VPTA does that really confirm the need for the VPTA to be working on behalf of tenants. Things like helping a tenant with mobility problems get transferred to a property without stairs; advocating for a change of floor coverings so that a tenant can remain living independently and safely; supporting a tenant who has received a bill from the Department for maintenance or repairs; getting a poorly worded Arabic translation of a Departmental Fact Sheet corrected;….every day, the VPTA helps individual public housing tenants get better outcomes.