Out of our hands: Victoria's housing safety net is about to be handed over to private enterprise

Housing for the Aged Action Group have always maintained that Public housing is the best option for older people on low incomes, and that we need more of it. The state government’s proposal to sell off the land adjoining 9 public housing sites, and to transfer the management of the public housing properties to private enterprise does not align with this objective. They are calling this the Public Housing Renewal Project, and we agree that Public Housing should be renewed, and maintained to an adequate, efficient standard. But it must remain in public hands.

There are 35,000 applications sitting on the public housing wait list. Infrastructure Victoria recommends an appropriate response to the current housing crisis would be to build a minimum of 30,000 affordable properties to help meet current demand. The government’s proposal would increase the pool of public housing stock by just 1100 properties, and would come at the cost of 9 parcels of prime land that can never again be used for public development. Where will the rest of the public housing we need be built when this land is gone?

On top of the sell-off, the proposal is to transfer the management of the public housing stock to the private sector. We have seen this slowly happen over the last 16 years. We know that it doesn’t work.

What are our main concerns?

  • Transferring or selling public assets to private business is short term gain with long-term side effects. Look at the energy sector and telecommunications.
  • Where will existing tenants move to during renovations/bebuild, and when will they be able to return?
  • Will they still have the same number of bedrooms when they move back?
  • Will the number of Elderly Persons units be retained?
  • The de-centralisation of housing provision means that the policies and procedures around tenant selection, rental costs and general tenancy management are as varied as the businesses running them.
  • This is a business model, designed with business, not tenants in mind.
  • Policies around rent setting and increases are not transparent, making it impossible for tenants to know what they should expect from being placed in this vacancy. 
  • Rent is higher than public housing and the provider is not required to explain how rents are calculated or under what circumstances they will be increased. Rents could rise to the market level.
  • If a person moves out of the household or someone dies, the rent is not adjusted. The remaining tenant must still pay the full amount despite a reduction in household income. 
  • Housing providers cherry-pick tenants. Providers are only required to select from the first 20 on the wait list, not take the one at the top, as the office of housing is required to do.
  • There is no appeals process for applicants who are rejected.
  • There is no process for property modifications and no requirement that housing providers allow it.
  • With the proposed renewal, 11,000 households will now be eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) putting added pressure on that funding stream.
  • CRA goes directly to the provider, making this a hidden government subsidy for them and no benefit to the tenant. In fact, because of this tenants are at risk of rent increases if any changes are made to the CRA program. This is because the housing providers business model depends on them recieving CRA. What happens if there are changes to the CRA program, who covers the cost?

What can you do?

Download brochure on how to make a submission, then;

Make an electronic submission to the inquiry, or;

Make a written submission to the inquiry

Send a letter to your local MP

Attend a meeting

Attend a rally

Further Information

The Public Housing Renewal Project

The Victorian governments briefing paper to developers

Terms of reference for the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Public Housing renewal project

Information on making a submission to a parliamentry inquiry