The City of Whittlesea recognises that every person has a right to affordable, safe and stable housing to support their livelihood and sense of belonging.
Victoria is experiencing a housing crisis. While the State Government has recently taken positive steps in addressing affordable housing, much more needs to be done to address the national housing affordability issues and the shortfall of appropriate levels of social housing.
This housing crisis means vulnerable people in our municipality do not have a safe and stable home, and many of those who do are facing mortgage and rental stress.
Affordable housing is essential community infrastructure necessary to achieve positive social and economic outcomes. Unmet housing needs is a significant driver of disadvantage. Without stable, affordable housing people lack a foundation to improve their life circumstances.
We recognise the definition of affordable housing in the Victorian Government Planning and Environment Act 1987, - affordable housing, including social housing; as housing that is appropriate for the needs of very low to moderate income households.
At the moment there are at least 700 people in the City of Whittlesea who are homeless, some living on the street, out of their car with their children or in over-crowded houses. The flow-on impacts of a person becoming homeless are experienced by families, support agencies, governments, and the community as whole.
There has been at least a seven per cent increase in homelessness rates in the City of Whittlesea from 2011 to 2016, which is higher than the national average (5 per cent). Specialist homelessness services report that they cannot keep up with demand for housing and support services which is impacting people of all ages.
There is an immediate need for specialised outreach homelessness services to support people from across the City of Whittlesea. These services need to be suitable for the diversity of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, which can include young people, older people and people experiencing family violence.
Many people become homeless every year after leaving their home due to domestic and family violence.
Our municipality has the highest rate of family violence in the north east metropolitan region (1,474 incidents per 100,000 population, compared to 1,204 for Victoria). Almost half of all people accessing homelessness support services reported experiencing domestic and family violence (42 per cent).
Almost half of all households in the municipality are experiencing moderate or heavy housing related stress (46 per cent). For people renting their home, 5,791 households (38.1 per cent) are in housing stress. For people buying their home, 6,822 households (24.5 per cent) are in housing stress.
High cost of living pressures due to the lack of public transport and local jobs and other factors impact the affordability of living in the outer suburbs. Many residents across the municipality report not having enough money to buy food (City of Whittlesea Household Survey 2017).
The City of Whittlesea has far fewer social housing households compared with Greater Melbourne (1.3 per cent compared to 2.6 per cent).
There are over 4,045 applicants waiting for social housing on the Victorian Housing Register in north east Melbourne (Whittlesea, Nillumbik, Darebin and Banyule).
61 per cent of these people have priority access status.
The availability of new rental housing stock that is affordable to lower income households has drastically declined in the City of Whittlesea from 65 per cent in 2006 to 9 per cent in 2018.
The solution to these challenges requires multiple strategies and partnerships; however, local councils have an important role in facilitating high quality affordable housing developments for households on very low to moderate incomes.
We have amended our local planning scheme to incorporate specific social and affordable housing measures. However, the regulatory action necessary to meet the demand for affordable housing is in the hands of State and Federal Governments.