The census data released 22nd March paints a picture of what happens when investment into the fundamental need for adequate levels of social and affordable housing is de-prioritised. This lack of investment has left us in a state of peril, and the most recent attempts to make up the gap are simply not enough to keep pace with the dire and growing need of everyday Victorians who are desperately seeking somewhere to live. Supply is the critical issue and we are not making enough headway.

It’s also important to call out the numbers that aren’t strictly homeless, but still have nowhere to live – the people that make up ‘the invisible homeless’. People staying with friends while they find somewhere else to rent, people living in their cars, people living in overcrowded houses – these numbers are also really significant, and consistent with what we’re seeing across our access points.

We anticipate these numbers will unfortunately grow as more people face not only increasing rental costs, but also have to divide what income they have on higher utility payments, higher food costs and higher fuel costs. Additionally, we know that 54% of mortgages are fixed and as they become variable, we are likely to see more distress.

There are a number of things all levels of government, developers, private investors, community housing providers and the community can do to make a difference.

Currently in Bendigo there are over 3000 people on waiting on social and affordable housing through the VHR. The majority of these people are looking for a one bedroom home. To support these people into affordable housing we need to rethink what regional housing looks like, including being open to multi-level apartments. We also need communities to show their support for social and affordable housing when it opens for consultation and recognise that it’s everyday Victorians, with families and jobs, that need social and affordable housing to thrive in their communities.

A pipeline of funding for social and affordable housing is critical to ensure Victoria can build the social and affordable housing needed over the next 10 years. The Victorian Government funds a number of programs that are effective in supporting people experiencing homelessness into a home such as Homelessness to a Home, or people at risk of homelessness to stay in a private rental, such as Private Rental Assistance Program. Extending the funding of programs like H2H and reviewing PRAP to ensure it is aligned with today’s market conditions will make a significant difference. Funding ongoing maintenance as part of the Big Housing Build will also mean the houses being built now won’t fall into disrepair into the future, which further marginalises people living in these houses. Access to emergency accommodation is also an ongoing challenge with the burden falling on privately run hotels and motels – building designated emergency accommodation would fill this gap.

The Future Fund, Housing Accord and National Housing and Homelessness Plan announced by the Federal Government gives us hope that we’ll be able to come together to shift the dial on the housing crisis in Australia. However, we’re also conscious that we need a solution now and these funds won’t come to fruition for a few years yet. We have been advocating for the need to find investment outside of government in order to solve what is essentially a $200 billion problem and we’re starting to see some movement in the superannuation sector to invest in social and affordable housing. By exploring sub-market models, new revenue streams and relationships of scale and consequence outside of government funding, we can create a pipeline of supply throughout the entire housing continuum.

Ultimately the people of Australia and Victoria all deserve more.

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