Is the Victorian Government delivering on affordable housing?

Is the Victorian Government delivering on affordable housing?
Cory Memery

The Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO) has released a report on the state government’s planning of the delivery of “social housing” in recent years.

Its focus was on the Big Housing Build’s (BHB) contribution to increasing the number of additional homes in Victoria in public, community, and aboriginal housing. Search on the internet for “VAGO Planning Social Housing”.

From the end of June 2017 (when the original Public Housing Renewal Program, the BHB’s predecessor program had just started up) until end of June 2023, the report advises there had been a mere net increase of 1771 dwellings – 86,418 to 88,189 (p8). Demolitions have led reductions in public housing and community housing providers increased their stock.

The report makes clear that community housing is replacing public housing as the government’s preferred provider of non-market rent homes. Labor in government in Victoria is abandoning public housing. Community housing charges residents more in rents than does public housing, so the switch is punishing those Labor claims it is helping. Victoria has the highest percentage of residents in community housing being charged up to 30 per cent of their gross household income when compared to other states/territories.

In addition, community housing costs governments more through Commonwealth Rent Assistance payments and, in some cases, ongoing state government subsidies.

The report states that annual operating costs for Homes Victoria – managing tenancies and maintenance – runs at $710 million per year but no detail on those amounts is provided. The government does not contribute enough to cover these costs.

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing’s response to the report does state that by the end of 2024 it will provide advice on funding the sustainability of public housing (p36). Public housing supporters will be watching out for this advice!

No mention is made of the plan to demolish the 44 high-rise public housing buildings over the next two-and-a-half decades, nor is there any mention of the role that federal government funding might play in the years ahead.

Other Victorian Government housing plans

The government has said it wants to facilitate the construction of 2.5 million new homes by 2051. There is no mention of affordable housing in this announcement. There is, though, an attempt to position local councils to back high-density construction and the social media organisation “Yes In My Backyard” (YIMBY) is quoted as being a supporter. Just who the YIMBY folk are and who backs them in all communities that may be in the government’s sights is unexplained.

The plan looks unachievable to say the least when the current rate of building contractor insolvencies, the profits that private developers expect and just who can afford to buy or build to rent are considered.

The Australian Greens proposal for a publicly owned home builder is a more certain way forward to build housing for renters and first homeowners. •

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