Published: May 2024

Victorian Budget: Renters’ take

Rental stress support package is a welcome step

Premier Jacinta Allan’s first budget has confirmed new funding of $7.8 million over three years for the delivery of a much-needed rental stress support package.

Tenants Victoria, along with our valued community legal centre partners ARC Justice, Barwon Community Legal Service, Peninsula Community Legal Centre and WEstjustice, will receive $2 milIion of the total funds to deliver an initiative to enhance frontline services for renters across the state.

“This is a welcome step to boost on the ground services for renters,” said Tenants Victoria CEO Jennifer Beveridge.

“Almost one third of Victorians rent their homes, but renting is becoming unaffordable and insecure for more and more people, including working families. We acknowledge this investment will not meet all the unmet demand, but we will use this opportunity to work with Consumer Affairs Minister Gabrielle Williams to develop a model that can be scaled up for ongoing service delivery across the residential tenancy sector.

“Our planned hub model will combine digital tools with a boost to frontline services, combining the skills of lawyers, financial counsellors and a social worker. We will prioritise urgent demand from renters with a focus on the issues of rent increases and evictions.

“We believe this much needed injection of funds will help alleviate homelessness and increase renter health and wellbeing while government policies are being rolled out to address the housing shortages.”

New staff will be primarily situated at Tenants Victoria’s central Melbourne location, with lawyers also co-located in community legal centres (CLCs)  in areas that are experiencing a surge in rental stress. These are Peninsula CLC (Mornington Peninsula), Barwon CLC (Geelong), ARC Justice (Bendigo) and WEstJustice in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Key housing commitments

In a tight budget environment, which the Victorian Government said is focused on fiscal discipline, Tenants Victoria was also pleased to see the following commitments:

  • $18.7 million to upgrade Homes Victoria’s systems to modernise the delivery of public housing maintenance
  • $197 million for measures to tackle homelessness challenges in our state, including a new grants process from next year and dedicated funding to address homelessness experienced by Aboriginal Victorians

Build more social housing

Treasurer Tim Pallas, presiding over his 10th budget, referred in his speech to the ambitious forecast contained in last year’s Housing Statement – 800,000 new homes to be built over the next decade in our state.

Housing is an essential service and supply is obviously critical.

But we know trickle-down housing policy doesn’t work. Tenants Victoria has long argued a key solution includes state and federal governments committing over the long-term to grow more social housing where rents can be stabilised. Too many people on lower incomes and, increasingly, middle incomes are caught in the trap of soaring rents amid very low vacancy rates, which has become a key feature of the capricious rental market.

In the Making Social Housing Work campaign, Tenants Victoria, together with other Victorian peak housing organisations, outlined how Victoria needs to build 6000 new properties each year for the next 10 years. While most renters will have to continue to find their homes in the private rental market, Victoria needs at least 60,000 new social housing properties by 2032 to accommodate more renters facing disadvantage and the prospect of homelessness.

This must be a priority for state and federal budgets in the years to come. Tenants Victoria is committed to speaking up for the growing demographic of renters in our community: 2 million people, after all, is a sizeable proportion of the Victorian electorate. We cannot afford to view the challenges of providing housing through the prism of home ownership alone.

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