Public housing fears

TENANTS rallied last week to voice their concerns about the future direction of public housing in Latrobe Valley.

More than 40 tenants, housing associations and the not-for-profit sector attended a meeting at Monash University, Gippsland to discuss the concerns surrounding Victoria’s public housing.

One of the main issues discussed was the tenants’ fears of losing their home through tenancy reviews or fixed lease agreements, according to Victorian Public Tenants Association chairperson Margaret Guthrie.

“People are really worried about the prospect of losing their homes,” Ms Guthrie said.

“Tenants that attended the forum said, ‘what public housing has offered them is stability and security’; these are basic human needs that need to be addressed before people can go on to education, employment and volunteering.

“If people don’t feel secure, they are without hope.”

Over the past two years, a parliamentary inquiry and a report by the Victorian Auditor General’s office released earlier this year, painted a bleak picture of Victoria’s public housing.

The report found public housing was in a critical financial crisis due to an “unsustainable” operating model, which could render 14 per cent of housing obsolete over the next four years, and higher rent for tenants.

The State Government then released discussion papers and opened a three-month public consultation period, aimed at engaging the community and stakeholders about required changes to the public housing system.

“What is good is that these papers have initiated discussion about the entire housing sector and what people need rather than a ‘one size fits all’ answer,” Ms Guthrie said.

“These discussion papers have raised the issues, identified some future options and provide an opportunity for frank discussion between tenants, agencies and government.

“Perhaps what can be addressed now is what sort of housing do people need at different life stages with different requirements.”

Insufficient public consultation and pressure from VPTA has forced the State Government to hold further discussions about the framework report, according to Ms Guthrie.

“There has been some pressure applied to the State Housing Minister’s (Wendy Lovell) office because there is now going to be an extra forum in Wonthaggi,” she said.

“I’ve also been advised that the Department of Human Services and the minister’s office have agreed that further consultation with stakeholders is needed.”

Ms Guthrie confirmed concerns surrounding the security of tenants would be addressed in the VPTA submission to the State Government.

The Department of Human Services could not confirm whether another meeting with stakeholders would be held in Latrobe Valley in the coming weeks.

The three-month public consultation finishes 5pm on 31 July.