Every year the Minister for Housing appears before a Committee of the Parliament, the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) to answer any questions that Members have about the recent State Budget.
Today the Minister appeared at PAEC and was supported by the Secretary of the DHHS and the new Director of Housing.
In his introductory remarks, the Minister highlighted the 21.9% “leap” in housing funding. He described the Budget measure of 130 new social housing dwellings for those fleeing family violence at “a first downpayment” and he pointed to the Governments reforms on rooming houses.
When it came time for questions, the Minister was asked about the overall number of social housing dwellings. The Budget Papers indicate that at the end of 2016-17 there will be 85,524 dwellings, an increase of 138 over the year.
All up the Budget indicates that 950 dwellings will be acquired, so why, the Minister was asked, is the net increase only 138?
One of the reasons given was the pressure on aging assets. We know, for example that aging assets on the Markham estate have been demolished, leading to a net reduction of public housing. Until the new stock is constructed, we won’t see a corresponding increase in the figures.
The Minister was also asked about funding for the SHASP program, a program that seeks to help tenants sustain their tenancies. The Minister was told that since the previous Government cut funding, evictions from public housing have increased. The figure of 363 evictions was quoted for 2013/14, the most recent year that statistics were available.
The Minister promised to provide more up to date eviction data and to report on what the Government was doing to sustain tenancies.
The Minister also indicated in response to another question, that he did not intend to introduce compulsory rent deductions from Centrelink recipients.
Towards the close of the hearing the Minister was asked about housing for Syrian refugees. He indicated that, as yet, no refugees under the 12,000 humanitarian intake recently approved by the Federal Government, has been allocated public housing in Victoria.
He was also asked to investigate how many public housing tenants are earning above $100,000 per annum. In response, the Minister indicated that 93% of public housing tenants were on fixed Commonwealth benefits.
Shortly, transcript of the hearing will be available and we will provide a link to that on Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you follow us to keep up to date with all the public housing news.