Councils unite for social housing

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FRANKSTON Council is one of 13 councils representing two million residents in Melbourne’s east and south east lobbying for more social housing to “end homelessness”.

The 13 councils, supported by Eastern Affordable Housing Alliance, Municipal Association of Victoria, Eastern Region Group of Councils and the Department of Health and Human Services, say they want more housing as the “first step towards addressing the often complex social and health needs of the region’s most vulnerable community members”.

Providing a safe home first, as part of a broader social housing framework, is the way to stem the increase in homelessness, they say. “Only with a home can the compounding set of circumstances leading to homelessness be properly addressed to enable better outcomes for vulnerable people facing extreme adversity.”

Their focus was informed by research commissioned by Monash Council through the Council to Homeless Persons: ‘Making a Difference – effective local government responses to homelessness.’

It identified that the “single, most powerful way” councils can contribute to preventing and ending homelessness was to advocate for more social housing across Victoria.

This housing is owned either by the state government or not-for-profit community providers and rented to low income households at either 25 per cent (public housing) or 30 per cent (community housing) of their income.

Those more recently affected include the “new vulnerable”: the people who have lost their jobs and homes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many seeking crisis accommodation for the first time.

Statistically, homelessness is more likely to affect the most vulnerable in our society, including women and children fleeing family violence, those with a disability, or living with a mental health condition, those living in poverty and marginalised groups.

A charter to guide the campaign: the Regional Local Government Homelessness and Social Housing Charter 2020, came through a forum of CEOs and senior staff from all councils, initiated by Monash Council in November. It was attended by housing providers, peak bodies and the state government.

Homelessness advocate “Nova”, who has lived experience as a result of family violence, shared what was described as a “powerful and moving story” with forum attendees.

The charter commits the groups to working together, and with state and federal governments and private partners, to deliver social housing and respond to homelessness in the east and south east and to identify land in their municipalities for repurposing as social housing.

Frankston Council joins Mornington Peninsula Shire in the collective alongside Casey, Cardinia, Greater Dandenong, Knox, Kingston, Manningham, Monash, Maroondah, Whitehorse, Yarra Ranges and Bayside councils.

Shire mayor Cr Sam Hearn said shire officers were often the first to respond to people experiencing homelessness. He said the COVID-19 crisis had further pushed vulnerable people into crisis, especially women and children experiencing family violence, and those on low incomes.

“A safe home is fundamental for recovery and safety,” Cr Hearn said.

“Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head, a door they can lock and a place where they feel secure and safe. A place to call home. This is a fundamental and basic right.”

He said: “All 13 councils are committed to working together to see change in social housing provision. Never has it been more important.”

To see the campaign forum and hear homelessness advocate Nova share her story visit monash.vic.gov.au/homelessness

First published in the Frankston Times – 14 September 2020

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