Victorian Government aims to create 43,000 jobs with $5.3 billion public housing spend

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The Victorian Government has announced it will spend $5.3 billion to build more than 12,000 public housing homes over the next four years.

Construction will start immediately on what is being described as the largest ever investment by a state government in public housing across the country.

The project is estimated to create 43,000 jobs.

It will respond to what has been called a “desperate need” for public housing in a state with growing wait lists and what had been the lowest public housing spend in the country.

Premier Daniel Andrews said it was “the biggest boost to social and affordable housing in the history of our country”.

“This is all about securing livelihoods, many, many jobs and giving that construction industry the certainty they need after a very challenging year,” he said.

“Each of those 10,000 workers a year, for each of the next four years, with the certainty of that pipeline of work, can spend, can invest, that’s all about creating economic activity and economic benefit for every single Victorian.”

Mr Andrews said 1,000 public housing dwellings would be set aside for Indigenous Victorians, another 1,000 for victims of domestic violence and 2,000 would be provided to people with a mental illness.

“We know from the work of the royal commission, Australia’s first and only royal commission into mental health, that insecure housing can be a massive obstacle to staying well,” he said.

Public housing build responds to a ‘desperate need’

The Victorian Government had been flagging an intention to fund large infrastructure projects in the state budget, to be handed down on November 24, to help Victoria recover from the nation’s longest coronavirus lockdown.

Victoria has had the lowest proportion of public housing per capita compared to other Australian states.

Public housing makes up just 1.9 per cent of Victoria’s total housing stock, compared to a 4.6 per cent average across the OECD.

According to the Australian Productivity Commission, Victoria spent the least amount on public housing per head of population out of all Australian states and territories last financial year — $75 per person, compared to NSW’s $135.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne acknowledged the Government had “unfinished business” in the public housing space.

“We are rectifying that without a doubt,” he said.

Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) chief executive Emma King said Sunday’s announcement was “genuinely unprecedented”.

“We’ve been calling for this for as long as I can remember,” she said.

“We’ve not seen investment of this scale before … we have a desperate need for it in this state. I don’t think any other state or territory in Australia is investing to this magnitude, nor is our Federal Government.”

Project set to be finished by 2024

Mr Wynne said the Government had already identified nine sites where construction could begin in Melbourne.

“Many of those are adjacent to existing public housing sites,” he said.

“It’s all State Government land and we’ll be getting on with the big build.”

Mr Wynne said 25 per cent of the homes would be built in regional Victoria.

Victoria’s second-biggest city will get the biggest spend, with Greater Geelong to get $180 million towards the new housing. Bendigo and Ballarat will get $85 million and $80 million respectively.

More than 1,000 ageing public housing units managed by the state will be replaced.

The first six tenders will be released this month, and the Government hopes 6,000 homes will be under construction within 18 months.

The Premier said 11,000 dwellings should be completed by June 2023, with another 1,300 completed by June 2024.

“This is all about quick action,” Mr Andrews said.

“Tradies, firms large and small, knowing that they’ve got a secure and a massive pipeline of work over these next four critical years as we not only repair the damage of this pandemic, but deal in a really meaningful way with some of the weaknesses that it has exposed.”

Tens of thousands remain on housing wait lists

Natalie Roberts estimates she has been on the public housing wait list for about 10 years, and has been homeless on and off for much of that decade.

She and her partner Steven Whiting had a home before coronavirus struck, but it was sold at the start of the pandemic.

“[It was] back to the street,” she said.

They are now living in one of the thousands of hotel and motel rooms given to homeless Victorians as a result of the virus.

While she said it was “good to be safe and secure”, she had “absolutely no idea” what would happen once the accommodation ran out.

In mid-2018, the public housing wait list sat at 82,000 and was growing.

In 2020, the Victorian Public Tenants Association (VTPA) estimates that about 100,000 people are waiting for social housing, including more than 56,000 applications on the Victorian Housing Register.

About half of those people fall into the priority category, meaning their housing needs are urgent.

“So the big question is, what more can be done to actually help those on the priority waiting list who are fleeing domestic abuse, who are in deep trouble, and really need urgent government action?” Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said.

“A plan over four years won’t help those people in urgent need now, and I think more needs to be done for critical emergency housing who need help today, not just in four years’ time.”

Ms King said providing safe housing would be a game-changer for thousands of families.

“We know that housing is a springboard to a good life and a life of wellbeing so this announcement is going to change thousands of lives,” she said.

“It’s going to make people happier and healthier and much more able to engage in work, education and the community around them.”

(Original ABC Article)

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