“I always have to juggle bills. Rent comes first – we have to have a roof over our heads – and then there is never enough money to cover anything extra – food is always budgeted – we never have new clothes – birthday presents are a struggle.”
– Mirium, single mother of 2 primary school age children
Hepburn’s first affordable housing policy was passed by Council at its April meeting. David Hall (founder of Safe Place Homes Inc) was asked what he thought of the policy and what he saw as the key housing issues facing the Shire.
“The Council’s affordable housing policy is a step forward and we are pleased to see it. We Safe Placers have been lobbying Council for a year to adopt a housing policy. We welcome Council’s willingness to work with us and the community, and we will look for ways that we can assist.”
How could the policy be improved?
“We note that the policy is an initial policy statement. It commits Council to advocate with other levels of government and to work on the preparation of housing strategies. We welcome Council’s commitment to include work on increasing the stock of affordable housing in the four-year Council Plan and to budget for this commitment. The affordable housing policy that Council has passed gives us a pathway to move forward through the development of affordable housing strategies which we would hope to see include targets and a timetable for delivery of housing stock.”
What will Safe Place Homes do now?
“We will continue to monitor levels of housing stress in the Shire and to seek opportunities for the provision of affordable housing, whether through new housing, home-sharing or other means.
We are already planning affordable housing in Creswick, in partnership with the housing association, Haven Home Safe. Council is currently helping with the planning issues for this project, which is aimed to assist single elderly women.
We are actively examining the possibilities for promoting home sharing.”
What is Safe Place’s role in relation to Council?
“Safe Place is, at its heart, an advocacy body and as such it seeks to encourage Council to make the housing needs in the Shire a priority and to work with the community to enable provision of more affordable housing. A particular goal at present is to obtain a listing by Council of all vacant Crown land owned or managed by Council that is suitable for building affordable housing.”
What is the need for affordable housing in Hepburn?
“Last year Safe Place Homes sponsored a housing gap analysis in the Hepburn Shire by PhD student, Lenka Thompson. She reported on her findings at a forum held by Safe Place in March this year. To summarize her detailed findings, the key groups under housing pressure are:
- A very large cohort of elderly women with limited financial means
- Low-income families experiencing rental and mortgage stress
- Young people who cannot afford any local accommodation, which also means lack of employees for businesses, particularly in hospitality
People think of Hepburn as a wealthy shire. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The average income for households in Hepburn is in the lowest 25% in Victoria.
From Lenka’s study, examining the gap in housing provision, and summarizing the data, there is a shortfall of 350 dwellings for low-income households.”
What opportunities are there for people interested in working with Safe Place Homes on the delivery of new options for affordable housing?
“Safe Place Homes is keen to involve anyone with a passion for a more diverse and equal society, which involves the provision of suitable shelter. We have set up a number of working groups and would be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to be actively involved. The working groups include:
- Rentals Working Group – looking at how to address the shortfall in affordable rental options
- Small Options Working Group – the development of tiny houses, caravans, etc.
- Home Sharing – Safe Place Working Group – looking at the options for sharing multiple bedroom houses with extra occupants.
- Young People and Housing Working Group.”
People interested in working with Safe Place should contact David Hall, email email@example.com
Lenka Thompson’s report, prepared for Safe Place Homes Inc in September of 2020, can be obtained from the following link: Hepburn Shire Social and Affordable Housing Needs Report – A Housing Gap Analysis.