Homes for Victorians: Affordability access and choice.

Most of us are affected in some way by the spiralling cost of housing and accommodation across Melbourne. The media constantly run stories about the dramatic increase of people sleeping on the streets or in cars, and people renting face increasing costs and termination of leases as landlords cash in or sell to developers while first-time buyers struggle to put together a deposit.

We, therefore, welcome the release of the Victorian State Government’s Affordable Housing Strategy. It is high time someone took the lead on this pressing issue.

From the perspective of a provider that assists people with a disability there are two key points announced that are particularly welcome:

  • Making long-term leases a reality will give people greater security and an opportunity to plan their lives, and
  • Building and redeveloping social housing will help many people with a disability who are living at or below the poverty line.

Our housing support team regularly takes referrals from people with a disability whose lease has expired or are facing a change in their circumstances. Sometimes we are lucky and are able to source a property in a few weeks in other cases it may take months.

The Victorian government announcement will place pressure on the federal government to do something in this space. There are noises that there will be a statement that the costs are driven by the lack of housing and the solution will be to build more. However, a recent University of NSW study concluded there were around 83,000 properties vacant across Melbourne, many of these left deliberately empty. While under-supply is an issue, it is not the only factor driving up prices. Under the Victorian government plan, people who own a vacant property will be taxed.

The problem with making housing more affordable is that it becomes, by definition cheaper. Obviously, this will be unpalatable for those who have entered the market at inflated prices, and for those at the other end of the scale who are seeking to cash in and create a nest egg. However, a structured approach would be considerably more palatable than the inevitable crash that will be brought about through interest rates increases.

There is no easy (or cheap) solution. It is, however, good to see some action on this front at long last.