Data from the 2021 census showed there are more than 1 million vacant homes in Australia.
Policy settings in Australia mean we view housing as a form of wealth creation, rather than essential social infrastructure, leading to this significant imbalance between people with multiple houses, and people with none.
We need to do better.
Housing plays a critical role in the health and wellbeing of individuals and their families and are the foundation upon which to build a better life.
Vacant houses are a particular challenge in the Surf Coast and Colac Otway Shires where a lack of affordable housing and worker accommodation has reached crisis point in places like Apollo Bay, Colac, Lorne, Anglesea, Torquay and Winchelsea. Yet so many houses remain empty, rubbing salt in the wound for many individuals, families, and business owners.
Without somewhere to live, these towns can’t attract staff to work in essential roles such as teachers, bank managers, nurses, hospitality staff, and food processing workers.
For businesses, this means opening less hours and some are not able to open at all. For individuals and families it means hard choices, weighing up the cost of driving long distances to a workplace or not working at all.
In the South Coast of NSW, Mayors in some local shires such as Eurobodalla have put the call out to owners to consider renting their secondary properties or holiday homes for the next one to two years whilst government initiatives catch up to meet demand.
A bold move we hope Victorian councils consider making.
Whilst the G21 region of Geelong has been granted a guaranteed minimum spend of around $215 million from the state government’s historic Big Housing Build, this doesn’t address the immediate supply issue, or the ongoing need to increase our social housing stock.
The development of a National Housing and Homelessness plan is an opportunity for the government to address policy settings to change how we view housing in Australia so we start to see housing as both a human right and essential infrastructure. In the Victorian and National Infrastructure Plans, access to more stable, affordable and appropriate housing has been called out as a priority.
Ultimately, our nation’s housing challenge is one that we all must come together to solve. It will take individuals and communities to show support for more social and affordable housing developments being built in their neighbourhoods. It will take collaboration between all levels of government, community housing organisations, developers, financiers, private investors and business.
Only together can we create a country where homelessness and housing affordability stress doesn’t become a defining characteristic of our nation.