A prominent housing service administrator is hopeful successive state and federal elections will force significant change in the Victorian public housing sector.
A parliamentary inquiry into the public housing renewal program last week revealed 57,877 adults and 24,622 children were waiting for social housing across the state.
There are currently 1394 applications on the Victorian housing register waiting list for the Loddon Region, which does not list the number of people per application.
Of those applications, more than a half – 746 – are listed as ‘priority access’.
The statistics represent a 15 per cent increase in 12 months, and Haven; Home, Safe chief executive officer Ken Marchingo said the problem of inadequate housing stock was not going away.
“We’ve seen some (government) talking, now we’re waiting to see when the rubber hits the road,” he said.
The Loddon region, which includes Campaspe, Central Goldfields, Mt Alexander, Macedon Ranges, Bendigo and Loddon shires, has just 3000 public houses.
Central Victorians head to the polls in November with a federal election mooted for the first part of 2019.
Mr Marchingo said he hoped the federal government would develop a clearer national housing policy, referencing the success of the now-defunct National Rental Affordability Scheme, which created 38,000 rentals across Australia by offering housing providers a financial incentive to build cheaper dwellings.
“We’re seeing the squeezing of affordable housing like never before,” he said.
“All the (public housing) figures are just fiddling at the edges,” he said, of the “real problem” which was lack of housing stock.
Mr Marchingo said housing advocates were not asking either government to build “thousands and thousands” of houses, but suggested subsidies and tax incentives could help stimulate supply.
In Victoria, the government last year announced a $1 billion Social Housing Growth Fund – part of a $2.7 billion social housing package – to allow social housing organisations to access low-interest loans to expand their property portfolios.
The state government, acting as a guarantor for these loans, said it would also transfer the management of 4000 public housing properties in Victoria to social housing groups.
The ongoing inquiry into public housing in Victoria looked into the sale of nine inner Melbourne public housing estates to developers, as part of a $185 million renewal project deigned to improve the availability of apartments for the poor.
The inquiry found the government sold the land to developers too cheaply.
Minister for housing Martin Foley said: “We are working to intervene early to get people housed quickly and connected with services to maintain that housing.”
“And while the social housing sector is under pressure, we are getting on with building additional units, modernising our public housing estates, and supporting over 4,700 people with private rental assistance.”