Spotlight on Social Housing

November 2015 

Local government has a leadership role to play in expanding the supply of social housing, Jocelyn Bignold, CEO of McAuley Community Services for Women, said at The Future of Inner City Social Housing: Options for Local Government, an event put on by the Inner Melbourne Action Plan ahead of World Homeless Day.

Melbourne currently has 55,000 social housing dwellings, far too few to meet the community’s current needs.

“We would like local councils to include a percentage of social housing in every new development planned across Victoria. We also believe that councils should ensure that developers include public spaces and infrastructure – schools, community hubs, which encourage social inclusion rather than isolation,” she said.

“These steps are part of local government’s responsibility, it is as simple as that.”

McAuley Community Services for Women says the lack of social and affordable housing ought to be a concern for everyone but for women and children who are escaping family violence, it was especially worrying because their choices are limited.

“Do they stay in an unsafe situation? Do they move out to a motel, which is expensive? Do they come to a crisis centre or refuge where they are technically homeless??"Joce said. 

Her seven-point plan for local government is:

  • 1.Set a % of social housing (ideally 20%) in policy for all housing developments across Victoria, inclusive of public space and amenities that promote social inclusion.
  • 2.Advertise and Enhance safe at home provisions in your local area so that women and children don’t become homeless as a result of family violence. In the pilot Bega Staying Home Leaving Violence, information was mailed to 10,000 homes across the Valley; followed by radio and cinema commercials and print and radio interviews. Two years later there is 94% local recognition and understanding of the Safe at Home concept.
  • 3.Educate yourselves (as employers) about family violence so that your employees don’t lose their jobs as a result of their experience of family violence and become homeless.
  • 4.Collect disaggregated data on your social housing tenants and homeless populations so that you know where the stressors are for different cohorts and can plan accordingly (particularly around the financial capability to pay rent for female head of households.)
  • 5.Influence State and Federal governments to continue appropriate levels of rent assistance – very few of the women we see can even afford social housing. The Federally funded pilot Home Advice – is a successful early intervention housing model – but over timetenants still struggle financially and remain at risk of homelessness
  • 6.Build local resident capacity in programs such as time share credits, financial literacy and micro-finance classes, and foster community networks and co-ops.
  • 7.Facilitate local job creation