Today the Social Housing Regulatory Review interim report was published.
While the VPTA has not yet had an opportunity to read the report in full, we are aware of a number of key recommendations which appear to be very promising. If implemented, they have the potential to resolve issues which the VPTA has been raising on behalf of renters over a number of years. These include:
- Amending the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Housing is broadly acknowledged as a human right in the international community, but it is not currently included in Victoria’s human rights legislation. The VPTA urges the Government to go beyond the Panel’s recommendation to amend the Charter to clarify that housing providers are covered by it’s requirements, and enshrine housing as a human right in Victorian law.
- Putting renters at the centre of the social housing system through amendments to the Housing Act.
- Creating consistent service standards across both public and community housing. The VPTA has been advocating for some time for greater consistency between public and community housing renters, which is needed to resolve existing inequities which can lead to some community housing providers charging higher rents than public housing and have the potential to disadvantage some people on the waitlist by forcing them to wait longer to access critical housing support.
- Introducing minimum housing standards for social housing properties – bringing this tenure type into line with the minimum standards in private rental properties following changes to Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act.
- Introducing a shared complaints and dispute resolution body for all social housing renters.
The VPTA looks forward to reading the detail of these proposals and further working with the Panel and our colleagues in the community sector to refine them if, and as, necessary in order to ensure they deliver the best possible outcomes for renters.
Further, the VPTA believes that to ensure fairness across all social housing renters and applicants, the role of the VPTA must be expanded to include formal representation of people who live in community housing. Although the VPTA’s Tenant Advocates turn no social housing renters or applicants away, the organization is currently only formally representing people who live in public housing and people on the waitlist. When the Big Housing Build is complete, one third of Victoria’s social housing stock will be managed by community housing providers – the lack of formal representation for people living in this tenure type is fast becoming unfair and unsustainable.
The VPTA encourages the Independent Panel to include this as a central recommendation in the final report.
The VPTA continues to strongly urge the Victorian Government to commit to growth in publicly owned and managed housing stock that is at least equal to projected growth in community housing managed stock through the upcoming 10 Year Social and Affordable Housing Strategy.
Chief Executive Officer of the VPTA, Katelyn Butterss, said:
“Investing in structures that support all social housing renters to sustain tenancies and make the most of the opportunities provided by safe and secure housing is an investment in the success of the Big Housing Build.
“For too long, the rights and protections of social housing residents and applicants in Victoria have been left to chance due to key differences in policies and procedures between public housing and some community housing providers.
“While we are yet to examine the interim report in detail, the bulk of the key recommendations seem to be cause for cautious optimism.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Panel, and with our colleagues in the community sector into 2022 to deliver the best possible outcomes for Victoria’s social housing renters and applicants.”
You can read the VPTA’s submissions to the Social Housing Regulatory Review Panel as well as the Final Report from the consultation project which was undertaken with Red Road Consulting, and the VPTA’s submission to the 10 Year Social and Affordable Housing Strategy Discussion Paper here.
All the submissions received by the Regulatory Review Panel are publicly available on Engage Victoria. To see the full list, click ‘see more’.
The Interim Report is also available on Engage Victoria.