Mary-Faeth Chenery

Hepburn Shire’s rich economic history in timber, gold mining and agriculture and more recently in tourism and short-stay accommodation has left behind some of our most vulnerable residents. As a just-published report shows, Hepburn’s older citizens, single mothers with children, and families are well represented in the nearly 500 households who are in housing stress.

Safe Place Homes, a passionate community group seeking to ensure that all Hepburn residents have a safe, suitable and secure place to call home, commissioned detailed research by specialist Lenka Thompson into the social and affordable housing needs of Hepburn Shire. Daylesford Community Bank (DDCDL) and Trentham Community Bank (CCCE) provided the  funding needed to conduct the study.

Social housing refers to short and long-term rental housing operated by government or not-for-profit housing agencies. Affordable housing indicates housing that is appropriate for the needs of very low, low and moderate-income households – which in Hepburn is over half of the population – 51%. A household is said to be in housing stress if they pay more than 30% of their income in housing costs – because paying more than that leaves insufficient income to cover other needs such as utilities, food, education and transport. This difficult situation describes 484 Hepburn households.

The housing gap analysis uncovered an immediate need for 277 affordable rental dwellings in the Shire and, if no further social housing was built in the area, by 2036 this number was projected to reach 344 affordable rental dwellings needed. There is a dominance of 3-bedroom dwellings across the Shire, with nearly 800 single adult households living in these larger-than-needed and expensive dwellings. This mismatch emphasises the need in the Shire for greater access to 1 and 2-bedroom dwellings, particularly for these single adult households, who were also determined to be the largest cohort in housing stress.

Hepburn Shire has 157 social housing dwellings distributed across 4 of the 5 wards, with 128 dwellings (or 81.5 per cent) being public housing (owned by the State government). Needless to say, these homes are fully occupied, and there remains a need for 277 more dwellings. Records from the local Daylesford Community Op Shop showed there were 51 people homeless in 2020 so far, whereas the Australian Bureau of Statistics Homelessness data recorded 24 homeless people in Hepburn Shire in 2016.

The need for the Council to do something to address this problem is critical, and Safe Place hopes the new Councillors will make the building of social and affordable housing one of their highest priorities as they create the next Council Plan. There is also a role for the community to assist, and Safe Place is working on ways to facilitate this.

The ‘Hepburn Shire Social and Affordable Housing Needs Report – A Housing Gap Analysis’ is available from Safe Place via its president, David Hall (

(Photo courtesy Women’s Property Initiatives