Consultation: Uniting Ballarat Executive Officer, Annette Kelly-Egerton met with Shadow Minister for Housing, Tim Smith and Member for Ripon, Louise Staley yesterday. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

Shadow minister visits Ballarat to hear about public housing need

September 19, 2019 BY

BALLARAT is in desperate need of more units of public housing according to Uniting Ballarat.

Senior Manager of Housing and Homelessness, Wendy Ferguson said 160 units are immediately needed and tenants of 134 transitional homes are waiting for long-term housing.

“We need hundreds of units of housing,” she said. “Numbers are getting higher most of the time, but it’s fluid. Some people might find other alternatives, but in general it’s been growing constantly over the last 10 years.”

“A lot of it’s about income. People can’t afford what might be available, but in Ballarat we have a very limited vacancy rating.

“We don’t have enough that’s affordable and Newstart allowance is nowhere near enough for people to be able to find something affordable and then live on top of that.

“It’s a really difficult time for people, not having the stability of housing, or knowing when you’re not going to be able to stay there any longer. It impacts people’s ability to get on with finding a job, for example.

“If you don’t have anywhere to live, how do you find work?”

According to Shadow Minister for Housing, Tim Smith Victoria’s public housing stock has barely increased since the late 90s.

“That’s appalling,” he said. “If you think about the massive population growth, we’ve only increased our public housing stock by a couple of thousand.

“I think there was 69,000 units in 1997, it’s now 72,000. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Mr Smith said the public housing waiting list is at 80,000.

“We’ve got an emergency public housing waiting list at 20,000 and it continues to grow. As much as I’d like to wave a magic wand and fix these problems from opposition, I can’t,” he said.

Member for Ripon, Louise Staley said agents are experiencing a big rental demand for houses in the $300 to $350 bracket.

“There’s a crisis here and we need to understand it, be part of developing solutions, and we need to listen to the experts. Their voices are not being heard at government,” she said.

In response, Member for Wendouree, Juliana Addison said the State government was committed to providing secure and affordable housing.

“We’ve invested $209 million to build 1000 new public housing homes for 1800 people across the state, including in Ballarat and Geelong,” she said.

Uniting Ballarat has been in meetings with the State government about this project.

“It’s three-year scheme, it’s already been running over a year, so we should see that actual build within the next two years,” Ms Ferguson said.

“They’re only actually using their own land, and there’s a lot of stock around that’s not up to standard, so they’re looking at properties where they have a large block of land with a house that’s rundown, and they’re perhaps building three or four units on those blocks.

“There’s potential for growth in a lot of areas where the land’s already owned, so it’s quite a minimal cost to provide additional houses. We have a few people in transitional housing where that might be an option,” she said.

“I think Ballarat’s targeted for about 80, but one of the things we’ve been told is that if we can find additional blocks of land where they would be able to build, they may build more.”

Although there are plans, Uniting Ballarat doesn’t see immediate problems being solved and asks for the help of philanthropists and broader community.

“Additional dollars to support would be fantastic. People are waiting for support, not only for housing. One of our really big needs in Ballarat is crisis accommodation for families,” Ms Ferguson said.

“We have hardly any. Families are having to stay in motels and find, sometimes, $700 a week to be able to stay in a motel longer-term.

“We need affordable crisis response and somewhere for people to be, which is still not ok, but at least they have somewhere they can stay which is affordable until they can find something better,” she said.

“We have some families in caravans, and now the weather’s better we’ll have families… children living in tents.”