Extract from an article by Carolyn Whitzman, Professor of Urban Planning, University of Melbourne.
Moral panic over recent increases in visibly homeless people in central Melbourne has brought to the fore the critical shortage of affordable housing across the metropolitan areas of Australia’s wealthiest cities. But living on the street is only the tip of the iceberg. Many more households are living in insecure and/or overpriced accommodation. Their plight is due to an undersupply of appropriately priced, sized and situated rental housing.
The Commonwealth government is reportedly planning to scrap the National Affordable Housing Agreement with the states. Without a clear alternative, the weakness of state policies, which lack clear targets and mechanisms for providing more and better affordable housing, adds to the problem. One state, Victoria, still doesn’t have an affordable housing strategy.
South Australia’s strategy has 15% inclusionary zoning as one of several mechanisms to achieve affordable housing targets. Western Australia provides regular progress updates on the regional targets of its Affordable Housing Strategy 2010-2020. Tasmania adopted a ten-year strategy in 2015.
New South Wales has had affordable housing policies in place since 2009. The NSW government has a new plan to build more social housing and improve existing stock. Queensland released a draft strategy in March 2016.
While these state policies vary in their success, Victoria does not even have a strategy to critique.
Victoria’s toxic planning legacy
No doubt Premier Daniel Andrews inherited several industrial-strength cans of toxic planning waste when Victorian Labor won office in November 2014. This legacy came not only from the Liberals, but from the earlier Bracks-Brumby Labor government.
Under the 2000s Labor government, the fourth new metropolitan strategy in four decades, Melbourne 2030, largely failed to stop sprawl. The main excuse for sprawl – that increased and largely unregulated housing supply would magically enable affordability – had become a sad joke.
As former Labor adviser Joel Deane’s book Catch and Kill shows, inability to respond to basic public concerns about planning and transport was perhaps the most significant factor in Labor’s 2010 election defeat.
If Labor had been ineffective in creating new affordable housing, the Liberals’ planning decisions between 2010 and 2014 were disastrous. Australia’s largest urban renewal site – Fishermans Bend – was drastically up-zoned from Industrial to Capital City (also known as “Anything Goes”). They did this without extracting a cent in added value from landowners towards affordable housing – or any other infrastructure.
Huge parts of the southeastern suburbs – Liberal strongholds – were essentially walled off from new housing, even though these had some of the best school and transport infrastructure to serve a rapidly growing population. Hundreds of job cuts meant the civil service lost experience and capacity to do better.
A long wait for action on affordable housing
The Victorian Labor 2014 election platform stated: All Victorians have a right to safe, affordable and secure housing.
Yet in more than two years since its election, the Labor government has not completed any of the major reforms that would enable affordable housing.
Plan Melbourne’s “refresh” has not been published in its final form. The Residential Tenancies Act still has to be strengthened. The residential zone review hasn’t been completed.
Perhaps most disturbingly, we are still waiting for the results of the early announcement that the state treasurer was going to work with the planning and housing ministers to develop an integrated affordable housing strategy…
Vancouver shows how to do it
The City of Vancouver’s Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2012-2021 is an example of an affordable housing plan that ticks the boxes. It has a clear vision embodied in the strategy’s subtitle: A home for everyone.
The strategy sets specific numeric housing targets. These cover everything from supportive housing for homeless people with mental disabilities, to social housing, market rental and home-ownership options.
SOURCE: Whitzman, Carolyn. “States Drag Feet on Affordable Housing, with Victoria the worst.” The Conversation, 15 February 2017.
BroCAP is produced by the two librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia.