Now is the right time for governments to be investing in public housing.
With Victoria in the grips of an affordable housing crisis and about to enter difficult economic times, a big build of public housing homes would provide affordable housing for everyone who needs it and provide thousands of much-needed jobs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on just how broken Victoria’s housing system is. Housing is an essential service, but for too long our housing system has been set up to favour profit over secure, affordable housing for everyone.
Victoria’s waiting list for public housing has blown out to over 100,000 people and the number of people facing homelessness and insecure housing just keeps increasing.
As Victorians have lost work and income during the pandemic, renters have been struggling to afford their rent, and too many landlords and property managers are refusing to work in good faith with their tenants.
As we enter difficult economic times due to the pandemic, people already struggling to find a safe place to call home will be further affected, and even more Victorians will be at risk of homelessness.
In times of economic hardship, governments make choices about how best to spend money to create jobs and now is the right time for the government to prioritise infrastructure spending that gives back to the community.
We have an opportunity to transform how our housing system works, creating both quality long-term jobs, and a kinder, fairer system that prioritises everyone’s right to a safe and secure home over profit.
The Big Build
The Greens are calling for a big build of 100,000 new public housing homes over the next 10 years.
Constructing 100,000 public housing homes will create almost 10,000 new jobs in construction, plus 1,000 new apprentice positions.
Our newly constructed public homes would be world class, meeting 7 Star NatHERS ratings, with efficient all-electric heating and cooling, attached solar to bring down energy bills, utilising sustainable materials and ensuring thermal, acoustic and aesthetic comfort for everyone.
As well as good quality on-going construction jobs, a big build of public housing will also require more people in work providing housing and social services as well as maintenance and repair.
The new public homes will be spread throughout our community in order to meet housing needs, including in the inner city, in suburban areas and in our regions.
A home for all
In the post-war period in the 1950s and 1960s, our governments ensured an adequate supply of housing, by building tens of thousands of new homes for veterans, migrants, and working families. However, since the 1980 successive state governments have stopped investing in more publicly owned housing, and existing public housing has been neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair.
As governments have withdrawn from the provision of housing and left it up to the private sector, our housing system has fallen into crisis. House prices and rents have risen, young Victorians have been locked out of the housing market, public housing has been sold off and privatised, and the numbers of Victorians experiencing homelessness and housing stress has continued to increase.
The simplest and most effective way to address our housing crisis and to end homelessness is to build more public housing. The proven Housing First approach requires permanent long term housing first, followed by ensuring appropriate services are provided.
The Greens want to see a Victoria where housing is a core responsibility of government once again.
Our initial plan is focused on ending homelessness and clearing the public housing waiting lists, our ultimate goal is to make public housing available to everyone.
Universal housing would not only end homelessness – it would see millions of working and middle class families proud of growing up in public housing, where public housing homes are case studies in community building, design and comfort.
Any plan for universal housing in Victoria must also acknowledge that parts of our community have specific housing needs that are not being addressed by our housing system. And right now our housing system is failing our First Peoples. Colonisation, dispossession and dislocation have meant First Nations people face greater struggles securing appropriate housing. In 2019, Victoria had the highest rate of First Nations people seeking assistance from homelessness support services anywhere in Australia.
The Greens will ensure though consultation with First Nations communities that the appropriate number of the 100,000 homes are allocated to Aboriginal Housing Victoria, to provide secure, culturally appropriate housing for Victoria’s First Peoples.
Helping Victoria create jobs and a fairer society
In times of economic crisis, governments turn to major infrastructure projects to help create jobs and speed up economic recovery. But infrastructure doesn’t just mean major roads or transport projects – it also means social infrastructure like schools, hospitals and public housing.
Public housing is often a focus of economic recovery projects after major crises. In the period after World War II, the state government built thousands of new public homes. Constructing more social housing was also a part of the federal government’s stimulus package to the GFC in 2008.
With job losses during the COVID-19 crisis especially high in Victoria, now is the right time for the state government to invest in major job-creating projects that transform our communities for the better.
We estimate a big build of public housing could create up to 10,000 jobs in construction and associated industries. It could also create around 1,000 new apprentice positions. With construction taking place over 10 years, a big build guarantees secure, long-term jobs that will last into the next decade.
As we create more public housing units, we also anticipate a boom in the jobs that help manage and maintain our public housing stock. From asset management to maintenance to refurbishment to support services, increasing public housing construction will also create additional new jobs in supporting sectors.
The benefits of a big investment in public housing go beyond job creation. Giving everyone a safe and secure home has longer-term economic and wellbeing effects. Secure housing is essential for people to hold down jobs or undertake education, and housing more people reduces the pressure on and the cost of health services and the justice system. A big build of publicly-owned housing is not just a way to provide economic stimulus in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 – it is a long-term investment in a fairer society for everyone.
Our big build of public housing would cost around $15-20 billion over the 10 years and would be financed through a mixture of state government and Commonwealth funding. Instead of raising debt to fund damaging projects like the North East toll road, the government should be using such funds to build infrastructure for the good of our society.
There has never been a cheaper time for the states and the Commonwealth to borrow to invest in productive infrastructure and government owned assets.