Less Talking – More Building

In Victoria, we are great at setting targets for increasing public housing supply. But when it comes to actually building affordable secure homes we are found severely wanting.

In the last decade there has been a boom in public housing growth pontification.

The Victorian Parliament Family and Community Development Committee released a hefty report in September 2010. They heard from 94 witnesses, received 109 submissions and released 417 pages of insights and observations.

Their key recommendation was that Victoria needs “a long-term, targeted increase to the supply of Victorian social housing to achieve a progressive target of 5 per cent of total housing stock by 2030.”

A great recommendation – one in twenty homes should be public or community housing.  Currently we are 32,234 homes short of this target, almost exactly the same number of households languishing in the public housing waiting list.

That was in September. Two months later in November the Labor Government had been defeated at the polls and the recommendation went nowhere.

By 2014 the housing sector was frustrated at the lack of action. Peak advocacy organisations, including the Victorian Public Tenants Association, banded together to release the ‘Making Social Housing Work’ Report.

In that Report we recommended that “A new Social Housing Supply Program with capital investment from the Victorian Government of $200 million per year (indexed) over 20 years. This investment would enable a minimum growth of 800 homes each year.”

Unfortunately, the recommendation was not followed at the time.

As the housing crisis started to bite, the recommendations started to come thick and fast.

Infrastructure Victoria released a 30-year infrastructure strategy in December 2016.

Improving access to affordable housing was recognised as one of the top three most important actions for government to take. The report stated “Infrastructure Victoria could not set a specific target, but evidence suggests an estimated 30,000 additional affordable dwellings may need to be provided within the next 10 years.”

In March of this year the Victorian Government released its long-awaited housing strategy ‘Homes For Victorians”. This promised 2,200 new social housing homes over five years, and the renewal of 2,500 existing homes.

And then yesterday, a report prepared by University of Sydney academic Dr Judy Yates was released.

‘Victoria’s Social Housing Supply Requirements to 2036’ concluded that 1,700 more social housing homes are required each year to 2036. Importantly, 1,700 is merely a break-even figure to keep pace with population growth. Dr Yates says even at this pace we are “unlikely to meet future social housing requirements.”

Those of us who advocate for public housing are thinking of conducting our own research into the inverse relationship between the making of recommendations on building new public housing and the actual physical construction of new public housing.

And it is easy to by cynical about the comfortable cycle of reports and recommendations and conferences and press releases.

Because we all know that releasing reports doesn’t get the job done. And that is where we are failing right now.

  • At the Markham Estate in Ashwood the planned 62 public housing units are on hold.
  • At the Huttonham Estate in Preston the planned 68 public housing units are on hold.
  • At the Koolkuna Estate in Hampton the planned 18 public housing units are on hold.

While these 148 units fall short of the levels of growth that we need, at least it would be a start.

Action speaks louder than words.