NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING A FRAMEWORK FOR A STRONG AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

ii Accessibility If you would like to receive this publication in an accessible format, please email housing.framework@dhs.vic.gov.au or contact the National Relay Service 13 36 77. This document is also available on the Internet at www.dhs.vic.gov.au Unless indicated otherwise, this work is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence. The licence DOES NOT apply to any software, artistic works, images, photographs or branding, including the Victorian Coat of Arms, the Victorian Government logo and any Victorian Government departmental logos.

To view a copy of this licence, visit creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au It is a condition of this Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Licence that you must give credit to the original author who is the State of Victoria. Authorised and published by the Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne.

ISBN 978-0-7311-6653-4 (print) ISBN 978-0-7311-6654-1 (on-line). March 2014 (2121112)

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

1 For more than 75 years, the Victorian Government has been providing social housing to Victorians in need. This has provided a foundation for people to pursue their goals and aspirations and has delivered many stories of success and achievement. However, over recent decades the public housing system has gone into decline, compounded by changing needs of vulnerable Victorians and increased operating costs. The type of housing in the portfolio no longer matches demand, properties are in poorer condition and are more costly to maintain.

This long term decline of the portfolio was reported in 2012 by the Victorian Auditor-General, who found that public housing properties had deteriorated to the point where some 10,000 properties were at risk of becoming obsolete. The Auditor-General also described the situation for public housing in Victoria as ‘critical’. There was a lack of long-term direction for public housing, an unsustainable financial model and an absence of clear decision-making and basic information about the portfolio. The portfolio was not performing well enough in its core task: to deliver better outcomes for those most in need.

The Victorian Government has made significant progress to address these issues. We have listened to our tenants and service partners, including undertaking the largest-ever independent public consultation on the future of social housing in Victoria, and introduced a range of innovations to the portfolio. Issues such as a lack of basic information on finances and on the condition of properties across the portfolio have been addressed. A comprehensive and unprecedented property condition review is being completed. Management of the waiting list has been significantly improved, and public housing estates in Norlane, Heidelberg West, Carlton and Westmeadows are being revitalised.

We have helped many young people connect with their community and access education and training through Youth Foyers; many more will join them in this life changing experience over the next few years. We have laid the foundations for more gains to be delivered over the short, medium and longer terms. New Directions for Social Housing: A Framework for a Strong and Sustainable Future is a critical next step. It outlines the new directions that the Victorian Government will pursue to build better communities, deliver better opportunities to current and prospective tenants, and maintain and develop better assets to provide quality social housing in a more financially sustainable way.

We are investing $1.3 billion over five years in major upgrades and refurbishments. We are working to ensure social housing forms part of a flexible and sustainable service system that supports people to achieve greater levels of independence and to contribute to the economic growth and vitality of our state. We are exploring ways to enhance the role of the community housing sector, and the Director of Housing is considering a program of stock transfer.

We have made solid progress to date, but there are many challenges ahead to take social housing in new directions. We need partnerships that improve the links between housing, education and employment services that are essential to our new way of supporting vulnerable Victorians. We are committed to working closely with those we serve, our social housing providers and the private sector, to meet these challenges. Hon Wendy Lovell MLC Minister for Housing STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTER

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Statement from the Minister 1 Executive Summary 3 Introduction 5 1: Better Communities 8 2: Better Opportunities 16 3: Better Assets 25 Conclusion 31

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING
3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Victorian Government is committed to providing quality housing for those in greatest need, to supporting our state’s most vulnerable people, and to providing opportunities for people to live more independent and fulfilling lives. This commitment is part of a broader aim to strengthen Victorian communities, grow the Victorian economy and deliver high-quality services and infrastructure from which all Victorians can benefit. Since 2010, the Victorian Government has commenced the significant task of addressing longstanding challenges facing social housing in Victoria. Immediate efforts have delivered positive outcomes, but given the scale of the challenges at hand more needs to be done. New Directions for Social Housing: A Framework for a Strong and Sustainable Future outlines the next stage of the reform process. This stage builds upon work to date and trials new approaches. The framework has three strategic directions to guide this stage of the reform process:
  • Direction 1 – Better communities: We will make social housing a better place to live by addressing antisocial behaviour in public housing and increasing safety on public housing estates; improving the management of public housing properties and estates; giving tenants a greater say in the services they receive; and encouraging tenants to participate more in their local communities.
  • Direction 2 – Better opportunities: We will do more to assist existing and prospective social housing tenants to achieve greater levels of independence through connecting tenants with work and study opportunities; helping tenants to access services they need; providing more support for tenants to enter the private housing market; and improving access to public housing for those in greatest need.
  • Direction 3 – Better assets: We will boost investment to renew and upgrade existing public housing and to halt the deterioration of stock that has occurred over the last decade; we will renew public housing that is ageing or no longer meets needs; we will enhance the role of community housing including through the Director of Housing considering a strategy for stock transfers to the community housing sector; and we will look to attract new sources of investment for social housing through partnerships with the private and not-for-profit sectors. The framework has 12 objectives as set out below, with a range of actions that we will pursue to achieve these objectives over the next few years.

In the longer term, we will use the lessons learnt during this important stage to continue the reform process. New Directions for Social Housing Direction 1: Better communities Promote and enforce neighbourly behaviour in public housing Encourage tenants to participate in their communities Strengthen public housing management Trial new service delivery models for management and maintenance Provide more support for people who are able to move into the private rental market Increase opportunities for tenants to work and study Encourage more tenants into home ownership Improve access to public housing for those in greatest need Direction 2: Better opportunities Direction 3: Better assets Boost investment to improve the quality of existing public housing Renew public housing that is ageing or no longer meets needs Enhance the role of community housing Attract more private investment in social housing

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

4 Strategic Directions Actions Description Better communities Strengthen our three strikes policy To tackle antisocial behaviour in public housing to promote a safe and harmonious living environment for residents. Introduce probationary leases for new tenants To ensure tenants abide by their responsibilities under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (RTA) to respect public housing properties and their neighbours. Introduce a neighbourly behaviour statement for all tenants To ensure all public housing tenants understand their obligations and responsibilities under the RTA and their tenancy agreement.

Implement a tenant engagement framework To enhance tenant participation in the process of addressing local and statewide issues in the Housing portfolio. Establish housing innovation roundtables To provide stakeholders with a forum to identify opportunities to continually improve the social housing system. Strengthen housing performance management To ensure timely and responsive management of public housing. Trial place management approaches at three sites To trial new models of delivering integrated management services, including community capacity building, for public housing tenants. Trial new models of maintenance and facilities management To identify and test new ways to provide high quality property and tenancy management services.

Better opportunities Establish a new housing assistance website To provide improved access to better information on housing assistance. Trial Home Connect To provide support to tenants or applicants to fully explore their options to access the private market. Promote and provide rental references to public housing tenants To assist public housing tenants with good tenancy records to access the private rental market. Trial Work and Learning Brokers To work with local communities and employers to create more opportunities for people to access work and study. Expand the house sales to tenants program To increase opportunities for public housing tenants to purchase selected public housing properties.

Simplify the application process for public housing To provide a user friendly application process for the most vulnerable people to apply for public housing. Better assets Invest $1.3 billion in maintenance and upgrades To extend the economic life of the current public housing stock. Undertake a strategic divestment, redevelopment and acquisition program To renew public housing through planned redevelopment, divestment and acquisition. Develop regional social housing plans To plan and manage the future location of public housing stock in regional areas. The Director of Housing to consider a strategy for the transfer of stock to community housing For the Director of Housing to investigate the transfer of public housing stock to the community housing sector.

Test the viability of a public-private partnership in social housing To consider public-private partnership arrangements for social housing.

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

5 More than 160,000 people live in social housing in Victoria, making it one of the state’s largest and most important human services. Creating a fair and sustainable social housing system that delivers safe and secure accommodation for those in greatest need and assists tenants to live more independent and fulfilling lives is a key government priority. The Victorian Social Housing System The majority of social housing in Victoria is owned and managed by the Victorian Government and is known as public housing. Public housing provides over 65,000 low-income households with long-term, subsidised rental accommodation including annual rental subsidies of some $370 million.

These households include some of the most disadvantaged Victorians, including people with a disability or mental illness and people with a history of homelessness. Community housing makes up the remainder and is owned and/or managed by not-forprofit organisations. These housing associations and housing providers are either fully or partially funded by government to provide short-term crisis or transitional housing for people who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of becoming homeless, as well as longer-term rental housing.

  • Some community housing organisations provide housing for people with specific needs, such as those who are aged or have a disability, while others house a broader range of tenants. Community housing organisations work in collaboration with community groups, local councils, and tenant support providers to meet the needs of their tenants. Like public housing, community housing rents are based on what tenants can afford to pay. A snapshot of social housing in Victoria
  • Social housing in Victoria comprises public housing and community housing. In total, approximately 160,000 people live in Victorian social housing.
  • Public housing is owned and managed by the Victorian Government and constitutes the majority of social housing, with around 65,000 properties.
  • Community housing is owned and/or managed by community or not-for-profit organisations.
  • The community housing sector manages around 19,000 dwellings, including short-term housing for people experiencing homelessness, and long-term rental housing.
  • Community housing is currently delivered by eight registered housing associations and 34 housing providers.

INTRODUCTION

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING
6 Current issues in social housing A number of government reviews of the social housing system have identified critical challenges to its ongoing operation, including a 2010 parliamentary inquiry and two reviews by the Victorian Auditor-General. Key issues identified include:
  • Lack of an overarching strategic direction for public and community housing.
  • Poor procedures for how people access public housing and how it is allocated.
  • Challenges in financing maintenance and renewal of public housing.
  • Long-term provision of public housing is at risk. The Housing portfolio has a structural operating deficit and faces rising costs. Public housing stock is ageing, compounding an existing maintenance backlog – 42 per cent of stock is over 30 years old and 10,000 properties are nearing obsolescence. Definitive action is needed to halt the deterioration of the portfolio and ensure that it remains available for people in need into the future. Community consultation In 2012, the government conducted a statewide consultation on the future of social housing in Victoria. The consultation sought the views of tenants, service providers and the public concerning current issues in social housing.

Many people contributed to the consultation process: attending public meetings, writing submissions and attending roundtables, discussions and forums (as shown in the diagram below). The strong response to this consultation highlights how important social housing is to the lives of our tenants and their communities. Experts from 70 organisations participated in round tables and meetings Approximately 350 participants attended 11 community consultation sessions More than 1,200 people and organisations across Victoria made submissions to the process 145 professionals from 132 organisations attended 8 service provider forums A dedicated Housing Information Line received 2,200 calls throughout the consultation period 2,000 copies of the discussion papers were distributed

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

7 Key issues raised in the consultation are detailed below: Issues What we heard Change the characteristics of social housing stock. Increase the number of properties, and higher quality social housing is needed with a change in mix of housing types. Management and maintenance of social housing could be improved. Encourage greater tenant participation and responsibility. Having strong community groups in social housing communities is very important. More effort is needed to promote strong, thriving communities in social housing. Security of tenure is important but individual circumstances do change.

Secure, stable tenure is important but tenure should be reviewed, particularly where there are issues such as antisocial behaviour or when housing is no longer appropriate for a tenant’s circumstances. The social housing system should develop a range of options to help tenants secure stable housing arrangements, such as supporting tenants to achieve their aspirations of home ownership. A more ‘person centred’ approach is needed to meet the diversity of tenant needs. The purpose of social housing should be framed in terms of the people that the system supports. It should articulate the outcomes that it aims to achieve, rather than focus solely on the system and the way that it operates.

This feedback from our community consultations, when combined with the evidence base in the Auditor-General’s reports forms a powerful case for reform. Building on the work to date to address immediate issues in the portfolio, New Directions for Social Housing details how the next critical stage of reform will be progressed. Our response The framework provides three directions to guide this next stage of our reform program. The government has already completed significant work to get the basics of the system right, including improved financial management, a better understanding of stock condition and more efficient management of the waiting list.

Through this framework social housing will provide:
  • Direction 1 – Better communities: We will make social housing a better place to live by addressing antisocial behaviour in public housing and increasing safety on public housing estates; improving the management of public housing properties and estates; giving tenants a greater say in the services they receive; and encouraging tenants to participate more in their local communities.
  • Direction 2 – Better opportunities: We will do more to assist existing and prospective social housing tenants to achieve greater levels of independence through connecting tenants with work and study opportunities; helping tenants to access services they need; providing more support for tenants to enter the private housing market; and improving access to public housing for those in greatest need.

Direction 3 – Better assets: We will boost investment to renew and upgrade existing public housing and to halt the deterioration of stock that has occurred over the last decade; we will renew public housing that is ageing or no longer meets needs; we will enhance the role of community housing including through the Director of Housing considering a strategy for stock transfers to the community housing sector; and we will look to attract new sources of investment for social housing through partnerships with the private and not-for-profit sectors. We have set out what we want to achieve through these strategic directions in 12 objectives, each underpinned by a range of actions that will be pursued over the next few years.

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING

8 1: BETTER COMMUNITIES New Directions for Social Housing Direction 2: Better opportunities Direction 3: Better assets Boost investment to improve the quality of existing public housing Renew public housing that is ageing or no longer meets needs Enhance the role of community housing Attract more private investment in social housing Direction 1: Better communities Promote and enforce neighbourly behaviour in public housing Encourage tenants to participate in their communities Strengthen public housing management Trial new service delivery models for management and maintenance Provide more support for people who are able to move into the private rental market Increase opportunities for tenants to work and study Encourage more tenants into home ownership Improve access to public housing for those in greatest need Efficient and effective social housing extends beyond the provision of physical structures.

It is also about providing a safe and secure environment where tenants can access the services they need, education and training opportunities, and can feel part of a community. Feedback from the consultations shows strong support for addressing antisocial behaviours, which can impact negatively on an entire neighbourhood. Tenants want their neighbours to respect the rights and privacy of others, and take responsibility for their actions and their tenancies.

The consultations also showed strong support for housing services to be more ‘person centred’ and for increased opportunities for tenants to be involved in the design and delivery of the services they receive. The Victorian Government wants to address antisocial behaviours to promote a safe and harmonious living environment for residents. We will work with the community to build a more robust public housing system, by providing more opportunities for tenants to have their say in the way services are provided.

Better communities will be delivered through the following objectives:
  • Promote and enforce neighbourly behaviour in public housing.
  • Encourage tenants to participate in their communities.
  • Strengthen public housing management.
  • Trial new service delivery models for management and maintenance. Through these objectives, and building on existing work to date, we will deliver a range of actions to create better communities in the social housing system.

9 Our Objectives Promote and enforce neighbourly behaviour in public housing Most public housing tenants are good neighbours and comply with their obligations as a tenant. Unfortunately, some tenants – through unneighbourly, and in some cases illegal behaviour – do not. This can make life in and around public housing less enjoyable and unsafe for other tenants, increase the cost of managing public housing (because of damage to properties) and stigmatise public housing. The government is committed to ensuring safety in and around public housing and promoting tenant engagement and responsibility.

Encourage tenants to participate in their communities The diversity of public housing means that there is no single approach to addressing problems or improving services on housing estates. Tenants are often best placed to identify the local solutions needed. Strengthen public housing management Since 2010, the Victorian Government has made known its commitment to improving how public housing is managed. We knew from the findings of the 2010 parliamentary inquiry that the management of public housing required significant change.

We have to do better in our day to day management and also in our approach to big issues confronting the portfolio.

But we also know that by acting alone, government does not always identify the best and most innovative solutions to problems. For this reason, we have already brought together tenants, communities and other key stakeholders and will continue to build on this approach over the coming years. Trial new service delivery models for management and maintenance The government is committed to delivering high quality property and tenancy management services to our clients. We’re doing the work to understand what maintenance our properties require; we also want to understand how we can improve the way we provide maintenance and other services.

We will look to create opportunities for local management of social housing, and better improve the way that maintenance services are delivered. We will trial different place management models and new ways of providing maintenance services, to determine the best ways of supporting tenants and the communities in which they live.

10 Our work to date Improving safety on estates Public housing must provide a safe and secure environment that supports the health and wellbeing of all tenants and residents. In response to concerns about illegal activity by some tenants, the government amended the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to ensure that action can be taken against illegal drug activity on public housing estates. Combined with an enhanced focus on tenancy management and addressing antisocial behaviour, this has been an important step to combating illegal drug activity. Working with our tenants The Victorian Government funds a number of tenant groups across Victoria to enable feedback to be provided to the department about issues of concern to tenants.

The Victorian Public Tenants Association, a statewide peak organisation, is funded to represent public housing tenants and public housing tenant groups. It also provides feedback to the department about housing policies, practices and activities. Links are made with other services that enable tenants, including older tenants, to participate in their communities. These include Neighbourhood Houses and Men’s Sheds.

Improving safety at the Richmond estate The Richmond housing estate is largely a cooperative and harmonious community. However, drug use and drug related crime had become a major challenge. Victoria Police has regular use of a command post in one of the flats. New CCTV cameras in problematic parts of the estate are linked to the command post and Richmond police station. Local police, government officers, community organisations and residents are dedicated to working together on this issue – and they are starting to make a difference. Victoria Police has reported that both the command post and the additional CCTV cameras have enabled them to better monitor activity and to respond more quickly to crime on the estate and surrounds.

There has been a significant reduction in crime and residents have indicated that the increased police presence is having a positive impact on safety.

Crime data for the year 1 November 2012 to 31 October 2013 showed a continued (13 per cent) overall reduction in reported crime for the estate, most notably with a 60 per cent decrease in drug trafficking offences; a 35 per cent decrease in “other” (miscellaneous) crimes; an 11 per cent decrease in property crime; and a 10 per cent decrease for drug use crimes. Other estates are now establishing Safety Action Plans to enhance the personal safety of residents and reduce crime. Safety plans can include a range of actions including setting up community safety groups in estates; running safety audits; strengthening engagements between residents and local police; and CCTV live streaming from housing estates (where this is considered appropriate and viable by Victoria Police).

11 Awards recognise tenant contribution To promote tenant participation, the Victorian Government recognises and rewards social housing residents who play a positive role in their communities. The presentation of the Frances Penington Award and Molly Hadfield Award is an annual ceremony that recognises social housing tenants who have made an outstanding contribution to their community. Awards are presented to tenants who provide support to older residents, organise social events, advocate on behalf of other tenants, or establish tenant groups and committees.

The annual Victoria in Bloom garden competition recognises tenants who are active and committed gardeners.

Victoria in Bloom acknowledges the positive effect that private, communal and community gardens have on social housing communities. It rewards tenants whose gardens enhance the look and feel of their homes and communities. Youth engagement The Victorian Government is delivering a number of programs that provide practical opportunities for young Victorians, including those living in public housing, to engage in employment, education, and positive relationships; contribute to decision making within their communities; and participate in cultural activities, festivals, art, music and enterprise.

Examples of youth engagement activities on public housing estates ‘Cubbies’ – supervised play Homework Club Reading Club for primary school children Sports : basketball, cricket, soccer Scouts on site Council youth activities Family inclusive language and learning support Performing arts program Community consultation In 2012, the government conducted the largest ever public consultation on the future of social housing in Victoria. We heard from tenants and their neighbours and communities, community housing organisations, people working in the housing and homelessness service sectors and housing policy specialists.

These stakeholders shared their views on what’s working and what should change.

Our next step is to determine how this change should occur. We understand that doing this work relies on providing ongoing opportunities to share ideas.

12 Our Actions Better communities will be delivered through the following actions:
  • Strengthen our three strikes policy.
  • Introduce probationary leases for new tenants.
  • Introduce a neighbourly behaviour statement for all tenants.
  • Implement a tenant engagement framework.
  • Establish housing innovation roundtables.
  • Strengthen housing performance management.
  • Trial place management approaches at three sites.
  • Trial new models of maintenance and facilities management. Action: Strengthen our three strikes policy The government will strengthen its stance on tackling antisocial behaviour in public housing to promote a safe and harmonious living environment for residents.

When entering public housing tenants sign a tenancy agreement, which sets out a number of conditions that tenants are required to comply with. This agreement is a legal document under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act). The Act sets out a range of specific duty provisions, such as not causing nuisance, not causing damage to a property, and keeping a property clean. While most public housing tenants are good neighbours, and keep to these duties, some tenants don’t comply with their obligations. Currently, if a tenant breaches their tenancy agreement in the same way three times, within a three-month period, their tenancy can be terminated.

However, breaches outside the threemonth period are generally considered to be new. This policy can allow antisocial behaviour to continue over a prolonged period with little or no consequences.

To implement this objective, a new neighbourly behaviour policy will be introduced:
  • A strengthened ‘three strikes over 12 months’ policy for tenancy breaches such as causing a nuisance or interference or causing damage to property or common areas.
  • A zero tolerance approach to illegal activity and specified severe breaches of tenancies (malicious damage, endangering the safety of other tenants), including seeking eviction. Under the three strikes policy, a tenant will be at risk of eviction if they breach the same duty provision under the Act, three times within any 12-month period. In line with current practice, tenants with additional support needs, such as people with a disability or mental health issue, will be linked to appropriate support services. If any of these breaches are severe, we will adopt a zero-tolerance approach, and seek to take full legal action to terminate the tenancy. The department’s hardship policy will apply to tenants in exceptional circumstances. Action: Introduce probationary leases for new tenants Tenants must understand and comply with their responsibilities under their tenancy agreement throughout their public housing tenancy.

A one-year probationary tenancy for all new tenants will be introduced to ensure they abide by their responsibilities to respect their public housing properties and their neighbours. If a tenant breaches the same ‘duty provision’ two or more times in the first year of their tenancy, they will put their ongoing public housing tenure at risk. Department staff will refer tenants to appropriate services where there is an identified issue affecting the future of their tenancy.

13 Action: Introduce a neighbourly behaviour statement for all tenants The Victorian Government will also introduce a neighbourly behaviour statement for all public housing tenants, which will make clear their obligations and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act) and their tenancy agreement. The statement will:
  • Clearly state the responsibilities of tenants living in public housing, including paying rent on time, respecting public housing properties and their neighbour’s right to peace, comfort and privacy, and the consequences for non-compliance.
  • Outline the legal obligations of a tenancy agreement and the legal rights and responsibilities under the Act between a tenant and the Director of Housing.
  • Make clear the expectation to be a good neighbour and the types of behaviour that constitute unneighbourly behaviour.
  • Explain the consequences for breaching a tenancy agreement. All new tenants will be asked to sign the neighbourly behaviour statement. All current tenants will be provided with a copy of the statement and it will also be published on the new housing assistance website and the Department of Human Services website.

Action: Implement a tenant engagement framework To further enhance tenant participation in the future, the government will develop a new tenant engagement framework in Victoria. The framework will consider different levels of tenant involvement to help address statewide systemic issues, as well as issues requiring local responses. It will also identify new opportunities for government and the community sector to work together to address issues that affect tenants. The framework will promote tenant participation across the state and establish more effective mechanisms for tenants to provide feedback.

The government will help build capacity to ensure effective tenant participation, including consideration of new ways of funding tenant engagement activities. Action: Establish housing innovation roundtables The government will establish new housing innovation roundtables. The roundtables will be held regularly and enable the department to work with community organisations, housing policy specialists and other stakeholders to explore solutions to problems raised, discuss innovative ways of providing social housing and support services, and identify opportunities to continually improve the social housing system.

These roundtables will be a critical source of innovation to ensure that social housing keeps pace with changing demands and are part of a more open approach.

Action: Strengthen housing performance management The Victorian Government is committed to improving the effectiveness of public housing management. This includes the way we manage our properties, and also how we work with our tenants. We are committed to ensuring that everyone, including the department takes responsibility for their role in the better management of housing – whether it’s in the management of maintenance, rental payments or managing vacant properties – so that we get the people in greatest need off the waiting list and into the public housing they need. For this reason, we will be implementing new performance measures within the department to strengthen management of public housing across the state.

14 Action: Trial place management approaches at three sites Place management is the mechanism for managing the wide range of issues, challenges and opportunities that face a housing site. It enables issues to be pursued in an integrated, coordinated way to achieve the economic, social and environmental potential of a housing site. Over the next five years, the government will undertake trials of three different models of place management at three diverse public housing sites in Valley Park (Westmeadows), Kensington and Carlton, to test ways of delivering better, more integrated and more efficient services for tenants.

The sites have been selected because they provide diversity in terms of the mix of new and older properties, public and private housing, high-rise and broad acre development and the inclusion of aged care facilities at two sites. Throughout the trials, the government will be working with the community housing sector to deliver facilities management, internal and external maintenance of properties, tenancy management and community building – which connects public housing tenants to community, educational, training and economic participation initiatives.

These activities will inform future place management initiatives.

Case study: Kensington Redevelopment project Kensington, five kilometres north-west of Melbourne’s CBD, is an example of a mixed tenure estate where public housing tenants, private renters and private owners all live in high quality housing. The redevelopment of this 1960s estate had a focus not just on the built environment but also on the long-term social wellbeing of the tenants and their social and economic participation in the broader community. The policy drivers for change were the ageing housing stock that had reached the end of its asset life and the serious social problems at the estate.

The Kensington project was a unique combination of redeveloping buildings, regenerating the community and developing a sense of place. With the learnings from this early experience, the redeveloped site can now progress to become a fully developed place management model, where more and enhanced services can be delivered to tenants and owners at Kensington through local management.

15 Action: Trial new models of maintenance and facilities management Public housing maintenance services are currently performed by contractors managed by the Department of Human Services.

In the future, the Director of Housing will seek to improve the quality of maintenance services and achieve better value for money by trialling alternative models of maintenance and facilities management that offer tenants an improved service over time. Much like the proposed approach to ‘place management’, the government will explore and test how services can be integrated to bring together maintenance with other aspects of facilities management, such as gardening and security, on estates. The focus will be on providing cost-effective services that are responsive to tenant needs. At the same time, the government will investigate more ways for tenants to be involved in making decisions about maintenance.

In this way, tenants will receive more timely and effective maintenance and may be provided with employment opportunities.

In summary The government will work with tenants to improve the quality of social housing and build strong communities through: increasing safety on public housing estates and addressing antisocial behaviour; improving the management of public housing estates: giving tenants a greater say in the services they receive; and encouraging tenants to participate more in their local communities. Better communities will be created through:
  • Strengthening our three strikes policy.
  • Introducing probationary leases for new tenants.
  • Introducing a neighbourly behaviour statement for all tenants.
  • Implementing a tenant engagement framework.
  • Establishing housing innovation roundtables.
  • Strengthening housing performance management.
  • Trialling place management approaches at three sites.
  • Trialling new models of maintenance and facilities management.

16 2: BETTER OPPORTUNITIES New Directions for Social Housing Direction 1: Better communities Promote and enforce neighbourly behaviour in public housing Encourage tenants to participate in their communities Strengthen public housing management Trial new service delivery models for management and maintenance Direction 3: Better assets Boost investment to improve the quality of existing public housing Renew public housing that is ageing or no longer meets needs Enhance the role of community housing Attract more private investment in social housing Direction 2: Better opportunities Provide more support for people who are able to move into the private rental market Increase opportunities for tenants to work and study Encourage more tenants into home ownership Improve access to public housing for those in greatest need Historically, the social housing system has provided housing for eligible people in need but has not done enough to actively assist people to achieve their life goals and aspirations.

For some tenants, lack of information support and encouragement is a barrier to seeking employment and achieving greater independence.

This approach has also led to long waiting lists for public housing and a concern that those in greatest need don’t get the access to housing that they need. New opportunities are needed to assist existing and prospective tenants who are able to move into the private rental market or own their own home while ensuring that public housing is provided to those in greatest need. Priority access will continue to be targeted to people with high needs including people who are homeless or have an urgent housing need and face barriers to accessing appropriate accommodation in the private rental market.

Greater support is needed for some tenants to develop the skills necessary to participate in the economy and their community to their fullest ability.

Better opportunities will be delivered through the following objectives:
  • Provide more support for people who are able to move into the private rental market.
  • Increase opportunities for tenants to work and study.
  • Encourage more tenants into home ownership.
  • Improve access to public housing for those in greatest need. Through these objectives, and building on existing work to date, we will deliver a range of actions to create better opportunities in the social housing system.

17 Our Objectives Provide more support for people who are able to move into the private rental market As an alternative to social housing, the private rental market represents a wide range of options for social housing tenants or prospective tenants.

However, for some people navigating the private rental market can be bewildering and problematic. Finding a rental property that meets the household’s needs, making applications and managing the responsibilities of the tenancy can be difficult if people don’t have the right information or need support. Increase opportunities for tenants to work and study Social housing tenants and clients receiving assistance from homelessness services tend to face higher barriers to employment than the general population and are at greater risk of becoming disconnected from mainstream employment services.

As a consequence, high levels of unemployment and social disengagement are contributing to antisocial behaviour in some public housing areas. Tailored solutions are required to connect social housing tenants with social and economic opportunities to prevent disadvantage in social housing communities. Encourage more tenants into home ownership For most social housing tenants, purchasing a home in the private market is out of reach. However, as their circumstances change, some tenants are able to save and plan to buy their own home. The Victorian Government wants to support public tenants who can move into home ownership to take this step.

Improve access to public housing for those in greatest need The role of public housing is to provide stable rental housing to people in need, with priority given to those with the greatest needs. Public housing is intended to operate as a safety net for those unable to afford or access the private housing market. There are eligibility criteria which are designed to determine if applicants are those in greatest need, with priority given to people who are homeless or have an urgent housing need. These groups include people with severe or profound disability or mental health issues and aged pensioners.

Ensuring that the right public housing application and waiting list arrangements are in place is critical if we are to ensure that support is provided to those in greatest need.

18 Our work to date Victorian Homelessness Action Plan Through the Victorian Homelessness Action Plan the government is investing funds to break the cycle of homelessness, with a focus on early intervention and preventative efforts that lead people to independence and self-reliance. As part of the Victorian Homelessness Action Plan, the government funded trials of 11 Innovation Action Projects to test new ways of responding to people who are at risk of, or are experiencing, homelessness.

Trials of seven of these Innovation Action Projects continue, with the help of $16 million of government funding.

  • Case study: STAR Housing – Innovation Action Project
  • STAR (Sustaining Tenancies at Risk) Housing is one of seven projects that have successfully trialled new and innovative early intervention and prevention approaches to homelessness services in Victoria.
  • The project, run by Rural Housing Network Ltd together with 14 health and welfare partners in north-eastern Victoria, works with individuals and families who are in the private rental market who may be at risk of losing their tenancy, or with people who are struggling to access the private rental market.
  • There was clear evidence that the STAR Housing program supported early intervention and prevention. Early intervention was demonstrated through early referrals from the formal STAR Housing partner agencies, and real estate agents.
  • STAR Housing has developed a strong relationship with many of the real estate agents in the region who were reported to be sending STAR Housing brochures to their tenants and referring their tenants to STAR Housing.
  • STAR Housing is funded until June 2015, under stage two of the Victorian Homelessness Action Plan’s Innovation Action Projects. It will continue to be independently evaluated, and along with other Innovation Action Project trials, will help to inform the future direction of homelessness services.

Case study: Anna Anna first presented to STAR Housing with rent arrears of more than 14 days and was at risk of receiving a Notice to Vacate, which could then lead to eviction and homelessness for herself and her child. Anna had experienced medical issues and ongoing medical costs that resulted in her being unable to pay rent for three weeks. Anna was referred to STAR Housing by her real estate agent. Anna’s STAR Housing worker was able to work with Anna in regards to her issues with rent, before a Notice to Vacate was issued. STAR Housing was able to sustain Anna in her private rental accommodation through payment of one week’s rent and worked with Anna to put in place income management options, making it easier for her to manage her rent and bills.

19 Bond Loan Scheme For people looking for alternative private rental, the government’s Bond Loan Scheme provides vital assistance with the upfront costs of private rental. In recent years, we have worked with people who have been waiting the longest on the public housing waiting list to help them find alternative housing options. Through the bond loan scheme – which is updated regularly to ensure loans keep pace with the private rental market – we are assisting more people move into appropriate private rental housing. Youth Foyers Youth Foyers are an innovative accommodation option for young people who want to study but are unable to live at home and who may struggle to find secure, sustainable accommodation in the private rental market.

In partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Hanover Welfare Services and local tertiary education providers, the government is delivering three 40-bed youth foyers in Glen Waverley, Broadmeadows and Shepparton as part of its $30.1 million Youth Foyer initiative. The young people involved are supported to achieve sustainable education, employment, housing and community connections. In the United Kingdom, research on youth foyers shows that around 75 per cent of youth foyer residents successfully leave the program with a job, ongoing study or are living independently.

Case study: Candice’s story Candice says being at the Youth Foyer has meant she can properly get into her study, something that was out of her reach before.

Study wasn’t an option for me before. I had to work to pay for everything I needed,” she says. “I’m studying Aged Care. I really like it. I get satisfaction helping others.” Candice says she is considering further study in medical practice, like medical assisting, pathology, social work or furthering her aged care studies.

She’s no stranger to moving around and knows first-hand how unsettling this can be — a childhood spent constantly moving with her family meant a new school every few years. Being in the foyer has meant she now has somewhere stable to live. Candice says the moving around and a fraught relationship with her family have had a lasting impact on her, so being independent and treated as an adult was an important consideration in deciding to apply for the foyer. “We’re involved in the running of the foyer through the Student Council,” she says. “I am really committed to making this place work. I’m looking forward to the opportunities the foyer offers.”

20 Work and Learning Centres Work and Learning Centres are the first point of call for social housing tenants looking for work in Ballarat, Carlton, Geelong, Moe and Shepparton. Staff at these centres work with clients to identify the range of barriers that prevent them from taking up employment and training opportunities, and support them to access the services they require. The centres are run in partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and local community organisations. More than 1,700 people have received advice and information from the centres and more than 1,300 were provided with pre-employment training and support.

The government is continuing to invest in programs that assist young people to engage in work, such as the Public Tenant Employment Program, which has introduced employment clauses in government housing contracts with major developers. Services Connect For tenants who need extra help to address issues in their personal lives or within their family, Services Connect is trialling more targeted and individualised service responses. Services Connect shifts the focus of service delivery so that services are built around people and tailored to their unique needs, goals and aspirations, rather than around rigid program eligibility. Services Connect provides:
  • One assessment when people access human services, instead of multiple assessments that often duplicate each other.
  • One client record instead of multiple records held by different services, so that people only need to tell their story once.
  • One key worker to be a single point of contact for people with complex needs, so that they don’t need to navigate through a maze of services on their own. Case study: Building a brighter future in New Norlane Mike* was a secondary school student who had become disengaged and no longer enjoyed school when he registered with the Northern Futures Work and Learning Centre in Norlane.

The Northern Futures Work and Learning Centre is one of five centres across Victoria that aim to boost education and training for local people who are looking for work and experiencing disadvantage.

The Work and Learning Centre enrolled Mike in a pre-apprenticeship course at Gordon TAFE and also worked with him to develop his communication skills and boost his confidence. After completing the pre-apprenticeship course, Mike secured an apprenticeship with a sub-contractor, building properties at the New Norlane site. Through his apprenticeship, Mike is now developing valuable skills in the construction industry. * not his real name

You can also read
Next part ... Cancel