A longer wait for public housing

THE Council to Homeless Persons has noted that people waiting for public housing in east Gippsland has increased by at least 17 people or households over the past quarter.

Offices in Sale and Bairnsdale said the number had risen from 453 in the September 2015 quarter to 470 in the December quarter.

This reflects that there is more demand for public housing, especially when looking over a longer term, where there has been an increase of eight to 10 per cent annually.

December 2013’s numbers were much higher than 2015, with an increase of 49 people looking for housing in those two years in Sale alone.

According to the Council to Homeless Persons, about seven per cent of public housing properties turn over to waiting applicants each year, which is a concern.

A major factor contributing to the problem is rising rents around Gippsland, and according to the Department of Human Services, Gippsland’s median rent hit $270 per week, an annual increase of four per cent.

This is in comparison to the remainder of regional Victoria, which only rose from 2.2 per cent.

Council to Homeless Persons acting chief executive Kate Colvin said the shortage of available and affordable homes in Victoria was simply too big to be filled by the social housing system alone. 

“We know that from 2006 to 2011 there was a large spike in migration to South Gippsland from other parts of Victoria which saw almost 1000 (983 net) arrivals to the area (Census of Population and Housing, 2011),” she said. 

“Plainly, more people are living in Gippsland and competing over the same private rental properties, and unfortunately in the rental game there is only ever one winner.”

Many situations can lead people to seek public housing, though it can often be a chain reaction caused by a single event, such as the death of a family member, a relationship breakdown or the loss of a job.

A major problem is those seeking to escape from violent domestic situations, who often have nowhere to go and cannot return home, which the Council to Homeless Persons said was Victoria’s biggest contributor to homelessness.

Groups like Uniting Care Gippsland are trying to provide support.

“A number of services operate in the Gippsland region to support people who may find themselves homeless, many of which provide temporary and emergency housing and refuge, domestic violence and youth support, help to access private rental, or other supportive community programs,” Ms Colvin said.

“In three years (from 2013 to 2015) homelessness services have seen a staggering 30 per cent increase in demand and in 2013 to 2014; almost 100,000 Victorians sought their help. 

“Yet over the same period funding to housing and homeless service decreased by nine per cent.”

The Council to Homeless Persons is asking for large changes in the public housing system, in order to solve the waiting list problem before it worsens.

“It’s a no-brainer — access to safe, affordable housing whether private or public is absolutely vital if we are to reduce housing waiting lists and homelessness in Victoria,” Ms Colvin said.

“A person’s health and mental wellbeing skyrockets when in a stable environment, and we know that the longer individuals or households are without a home, the harder it is to end their homelessness. 

“This cannot be ignored.

“We need a state-wide affordable housing strategy that sets targets for an increase in different housing types (both within social housing and private rental) at different price points to support families and earner of all incomes.”