Unison’s submission to Victoria’s first ever Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs launched the first ever inquiry into homelessness in Victoria. This Parliamentary Inquiry is a crucial step towards understanding the changing scale and nature of homelessness across the state.
In February 2020, Unison, together with the Unison Housing Research Lab, made a submission to the inquiry to highlight the critical importance to focus on strategies and services to improve housing retention among people that have been homeless.
As always, we continue to advocate for an increase in the supply of social housing.
The most significant factor contributing to the persistent increase in homelessness across Victoria can be traced to the limited supply of affordable properties for rental, both private and social. Victoria has the lowest proportion of social housing per capita, where it constitutes approximately 3.5% of occupied units (Parliament of Victoria: Legal and Social Issues Committee 2018, p.25).
A sustained and substantial increase in social housing is the key to preventing first time homelessness – the evidence clearly shows that social housing is, by many orders of magnitude, the strongest protective factor against homelessness (Johnson et al, 2018).
Our submission to the inquiry puts forward six recommendations to address homelessness in Victoria. We urge the committee to consider:
- Recommending a significant and sustained investment in increasing the supply of social housing.
- Encouraging the Victorian Government to adopt a systems driven approach that plans for both a) limiting first time homelessness, and b) reducing re-entry into homelessness.
- Endorsing a shift in the Specialist Homelessness Service system from ‘supporting’ individuals to ‘housing’ them and ‘keeping’ them housed. Such a shift would require an explicit policy goal of reducing to zero re-entries into homelessness by targeting formerly homeless households in social housing.
- To achieve a zero re-entries goal, effort needs to be directed towards ensuring adequate support to social housing tenants, particularly tenants with a history of episodic homelessness.
- Making support agencies more accountable for the housing outcomes of the homeless households they work with.
- Finally, social housing providers need to be incentivised to take on high risk groups. Otherwise they will be entirely logical to not do so.