Constituency question – My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Housing. The action I seek is that the minister inform me about what is being done by the government to improve the existing social housing stock in the Shepparton district electorate. Recently the state government announced it would spend half a billion dollars to upgrade 23 000 social housing properties and deliver 168 new social housing units across Victoria.
As the minister is aware, Shepparton has the unenviable record of the highest level of homelessness in regional Victoria, indicated by ABS 2016 census data and the government’s own local area service network data. I have been undertaking an investigation into the state of social housing in my electorate. Social housing is an important investment which goes towards combating the very pressing issue of the rising cost of housing affordability, thereby preventing low wage earners and welfare recipients from the risk of becoming homeless.
I thank the minister for providing me with information in response to questions on notice regarding the state of my electorate’s social housing stock. The figures confirm that a number of social housing properties have been sitting idle and unused. There are 29 vacant as of April 2020, 21 of which have been vacant for more than 90 days or longer, with some vacant for more than two years. I have already written to the minister requesting that these vacant properties be prioritised for maintenance when distributing funds from the building works package so as to return them to use as quickly as possible.
The state of homelessness in my electorate is such that to simply maintain the current levels of social housing stock, an investment of some 25 new social housing units is required each and every year to make inroads and reduce homelessness, and that investment needs to increase to approximately 50 social housing units per year over the next decade and beyond. In my electorate, there is a lack of affordable one- and two-bedroom units, and I ask that the bulk of any future investment consider this shortfall.
The state government has been making some inroads partnering with local not-for-profits in the Shepparton region via the Social Housing Growth Fund, and I commend these efforts. The electorate with the highest rate of homelessness in regional Victoria is surely deserving of being allocated a significant proportion of any further social housing investment.
Minister response: Thank you for raising the matter of improving the existing social housing stock in the Shepparton district. On 18 May 2020, the Victorian Government announced it is investing almost $155 million for maintenance and upgrade works and a further $110 million for renovations to public housing properties as part of its Building Works package.
This funding will include upgrade works to more than 2,100 properties and maintenance works to over 15,000 properties across Victoria, and 25 per cent of it will be allocated to regional areas. The investment will prioritise works that are able to commence in the coming weeks and months that will improve the amenity, liveability and condition of thousands of homes across the state, including homes in the Shepparton area.
As part of this Building Works package, 14 properties in the Shepparton area will be upgraded during the 2020-21 financial year, with a further 24 properties expected to be upgraded during 2021-22.
Through the Director of Housing’s annual base program of improving the social housing portfolio, an additional 19 properties in the Shepparton area will be upgraded during 2020-21, with a further 14 properties upgraded during 2021-22. By late 2022, a total of 71 home upgrades in the Shepparton area are expected to be completed.
The Victorian Government is also continuing to make significant investments to address social housing stock and homelessness across the State.
The Government’s Building New Homes to Fight Homelessness program will see at least 1,000 new public housing homes constructed by December 2022, ready to support people at risk of or experiencing homelessness or family violence. The majority of these new properties will be one- and two-bedroom homes.
Sites for redevelopment in the Shepparton area have already been confirmed that will deliver ten new homes within this program, with further sites being considered. The new homes will support people in need to gain access to safe, secure, affordable and stable housing in the local area.
Hon Richard Wynne MP
Minister for Housing