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Opinion Housing

Opinion: A missed opportunity to preserve Victoria’s public housing

3 min read
public housing

The recent handdown of the Victorian Housing Statement included some big promises – a mammoth 80,000 new homes and greater protections for private renters.  

However, beneath the surface of this promising news lies a pressing concern: will our state’s public housing remain public?  

As the peak body for people in public housing, we welcome the commitments to improving living conditions in social housing, but we urge the government to ensure that these new developments remain publicly owned and publicly managed. This is not just an imperative; it is the heart of a sustainable and equitable housing future for all Victorians.  

Our advocacy work in the social housing sector has exposed the increased need for new housing and for more assistance. Our caseload has doubled in the past 12 months.  

Community housing, while essential, differs significantly from public housing. Public housing is the bedrock upon which many vulnerable individuals and families build their lives. It offers security, stability, and affordability in a way that research shows community housing often cannot.    

Our call to action is simple: we urge the government to commit to ensuring that all new homes built on existing sites are designated as publicly owned and managed social or affordable housing.   

Failing to make this commitment would constitute a missed opportunity to supply the safe, accessible public housing that Victorians both need and deserve.   

While we emphasise the importance of publicly owned and managed social housing, we also acknowledge and applaud the government’s commitments to creating a pipeline of future social housing stock.   

However, we must also consider the sanctity of public land. We urge the government to unequivocally rule out the sale of any public land, on which there is existing public housing.   

Public land should remain a cornerstone of our efforts to provide safe and affordable housing for those in need.   

Every night in Victoria more than 100,000 people sleep rough, in their cars, on a couch, or somewhere else unsafe and impermanent. Victoria needs to build a minimum of 60,000 new social housing properties to even begin to address this problem.   

With so much need present in our communities, it is unconscionable to sell public land to private developers.    

This land is an incredibly valuable community asset. Once sold, it will never again be in public hands.   

Everyone deserves access to transport, work, schools and the vibrant culture Melbourne has to offer. If the density of these sites is to be increased drastically, the housing on it should be public or affordable housing. Not private market housing.   

Other commitments announced are steps in the right direction. But we must ensure that they do not overshadow the urgent need to safeguard the core of our social housing system: publicly owned and managed housing.  

We echo the voices of many in our community by calling for the immediate release of the full Social Housing Regulatory Review.    

This review, commissioned at the outset of the Big Housing Build initiative, was intended to ensure best-practice tenancy management for all social housing renters.   

Its goal was to empower renters and place their voices at the center of decisions affecting their lives.   

As Victoria’s social housing sector continues to grow, the gap between the rights and protections between those in public and community housing widens. We must bridge this gap and ensure equitable treatment for all.   

The recent announcement is indeed a positive step toward addressing the housing crisis facing our state but we must remain vigilant and insist on transparency, public ownership, and public management of these vital housing resources.   

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Katelyn Butterss has worked for VPTA since 2019 with the aim to give voice to people in public housing, and to improve and expand the public housing system in Victoria. She was appointed CEO in 2021.

The Victorian Public Tenants Association (VPTA) is the peak body for public housing in Victoria, representing people who live in public housing and also those who are on the wait list.


1 Comment

  1. Ross Proud November 24, 2023

    With a 40 year history in the building industry (professional Engineer) the state of the housing industry has never depressed me so much as it does at this time. I am hopefull and optimistic that it is only transitional state from one paradyme to another. to start with, since the 1980′ state and federal governments have progressively corptatized, privatized and sold off everthing to the private sector that wasn’t nailed down. This includes the constructionm and maintenance of public and social housing and its been all down hill from there.
    But its not just public and social housing.As with other sectors of the economy the principles of supply and demand apply and progressivey the price increases until the supply end stabilizes and as the industry is seemingly incapable of meeting the demand the costs will continue to escalate until the upper limit of affordability is reached. The supply side is multi faceted and complex. but from my perspective the following are some of the reasons for the industry failing to meet the demand.
    1. Size. hose floor areas typically range from 150 to 300 sq meters. some of the largest in the world. De we realy need this area with family sizes of between 2 and 4
    2. Construction methofdologies – We are still building houses with centuries old technology (Sticks and bricks) albeit with some refinements. There are for more efficient ways of achieving extraordinary rates of production with far greater quality control while still maintaining the same degree of uniquness that is currently available.
    3. We have a wide variety of new and updated existing materials that are available. Materials that are environmentally and eccologically friendly.
    4. Changing the regulatory systems (planning and Building) and controls. The current process is extrordinary innefficient, inexperiences, beuracratic, loaded with red tape. The system has no redeeming features and is predicated on the idea that everyone in the industry are scammers, thieves and all out to take down their clients. Or that what it seem to me having regard to the legal and insurance processes and demands.
    5. Land banking. sitting on land to invoke the supply and demand Costruct.
    6. The supply and construct construct is artificial as it costs no more to produce the materials and services. Timber, steel, concrete , fuel are just a few. examlpes
    7. Of course it would be amiss of me to suggest the taxation system.
    There are a whole raft of things that can be done to make this industry mor efficient resulting in way cheaper costs but unfortunaely implimentation upsets the status quo.


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