The Mirror News

Shire strategy to address social housing deficit

AT LEAST 420 houses are required to address the current deficit of social and affordable housing in the South Gippsland region, according to a new strategy formally adopted by the South Gippsland Shire 
Council.

Councillors voted as one at the ordinary meeting in Leongatha on Wednesday August 17, 2022 to accept the 29-page housing consultancy’s report that forms the municipality’s new Social and Affordable Housing Strategy. 

The strategy, described in a shire statement as “a sobering update of what is needed”, [sets] “a new way forward to respond to the lack of social and affordable housing in South Gippsland.”

The strategy also recognises that this deficiency is “a big issue with an estimated shortfall of at least 420 affordable homes in our region”, the statement reads.

At the council meeting, South Gippsland Shire Mayor Mohya Davies said “there has been significant underinvestment in our region and Victoria on this issue for many years.

“When all councillors stood for election, we were told [housing] was an issue.

“I am pleased that we are able to say that we now have a strong strategy in place that will set our region up to better address this growing need,” she said.

“This strategy does an excellent job highlighting that the delivery of this support is not up to Council, but we can advocate to the relevant authorities to get something done.”

Developed by housing specialist Hornsby & Co., which advises developers, government, and the community housing sector, South Gippsland’s strategy is based on strong local and stakeholder engagement.

The shire will now aim to lobby state and federal governments for additional affordable housing support and investment in South Gippsland.

Strengthening partnerships with the community and the development industry to address gaps and skills within the land-use planning system are priorities, too.

The shire will also undertake a review of council-owned and public land in the municipality and assess its suitability for affordable housing, submitting changes to the Planning Scheme where appropriate to incorporate the strategy.

The introduction to the strategy states that “over 1000 households in the South Gippsland Shire are in housing stress.

“They pay more than 30 per cent of their household income on housing costs, leaving not enough for other expenses like transport, education supplies, health, food and utilities,” it reads.

“A person who is in insecure, inadequate or unaffordable housing cannot fully participate in the community and in the economy,” the report continues.

“It impacts on their ability to successfully complete education or training programs, to secure and maintain a job, or to pay for vital health care. It limits their capacity to contribute to community cohesiveness.”

Hornsby & Co. has found that South Gippsland has a higher proportion of people on a lower income compared with the State average, and that the number of social housing dwellings is significantly lower than the State average.

As of June 30 2021, there were 218 public and social housing dwellings available in South Gippsland, which is the lowest number of any of the local government areas in Gippsland.

At December 2021, there were 1,129 households on the priority access list seeking social housing in Inner Gippsland, which comprises South Gippsland, Baw Baw, Latrobe, and Bass Coast shires, with a further 1,187 on the Register for Interest.

The strategy indicates that this “under supply of social housing is against a backdrop of a significant increase in house prices and a steady decline in affordable rentals across {South Gippsland Shire].

“On average, house prices have risen by 50 per cent between 2016 and 2020,” the strategy reads.

“In the 12 months to December 2021, there were no affordable rental properties available to households on a very low income in South Gippsland [and] in the year to June 2021, the number of new private rental listings fell by 120, or 24.7 per cent.”

he strategy recommends that the shire continues to work with social housing 
service providers to identify local needs and services.

Among those in South Gippsland who are known to have the highest need for secure, low-cost housing are homeless people, older single people, and women and children.

More social housing for people on low incomes is needed right across the shire and its large number of widely dispersed smaller communities.

Foster, Leongatha and Korumburra had the highest percentage of households in rental and mortgage stress in 2016, and there is demand in many other townships as well, including Mirboo North and Meeniyan.

Many councillors spoke in support of the housing strategy at last week’s meeting, pointing out the glaring figures, the issues to be faced, and how this strategy will help to encourage greater investment in this sector in South Gippsland.

Cr Jenni Keerie said “this is an extremely important strategy that will help guide our advocacy to other levels of government.”

Cr Sarah Gilligan said “we as councillors have heard of a lot of people who are feeling marginalised because they can’t afford housing.

“We are not alone,” she said. “It’s happening right across regional Australia, if not the world.”

Deputy Mayor Nathan Hersey said “there is a significant shortage of affordable and social housing.

“We don’t have a major city or town in the shire that is the centre for services; we’re made up of a lot of little communities,” he said.

Find the South Gippsland Shire Council’s Social and Affordable Housing Strategy online at: www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au/strategies

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