Homeless people stuck in ‘unsuitable, sometimes dangerous’ accommodation4th March 2021
“For Victoria to reach the national social housing average, it would need to build up to 3400 new social housing dwellings per year until 2036,” the report said.
The report also suggested the government look at implementing mandatory inclusionary zoning that would compel developers to include social or affordable housing in all new major developments across the state.
“A mandatory model of inclusionary zoning would ensure that the private market takes partial responsibility, alongside government, for the provision of housing that meets the needs of all Victorians,” the report said.
It says there are concerns this could constrain the financial returns of property developers, but incentives could be provided to guarantee the cost of other dwellings in a development would not be driven up because of the inclusion of affordable housing.
According to the report, the median period someone remains homeless in Australia is 4½ months, but it lasts more than a year in about 20 per cent of cases.
People under 35 are the largest age group of people experiencing homelessness in Victoria, although older women were a fast-growing cohort.
Family violence was the main reason individuals accessing homelessness services sought assistance in Victoria.
“Because the homelessness system is so overwhelmed, it only has the resources to provide short-term accommodation for the very needy,” said inquiry chair Fiona Patten.
The inquiry made 51 recommendations, including increasing the provision of affordable, stable long-term housing and prioritising early intervention measures, such as assistance for those fleeing violence.
It recommended the government set up innovative housing models, such as pop-up housing in underutilised buildings, transportable housing and the use of surplus government land (through leases or sale), to create social housing.
The inquiry said measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic saw many people previously sleeping rough placed in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, with plans for this to transition into long-term housing.
“This event showed that with sufficient will on the part of the Victorian government, it is possible to end homelessness for many people experiencing it. Whether that will remain the case is yet to be seen.”
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Jewel Topsfield is social affairs editor at The Age. She has worked in Melbourne, Canberra and Jakarta as Indonesia correspondent. She has won multiple awards including a Walkley and the Lowy Institute Media Award.