Mary-Faeth Chenery

Dr Heather Holst, Victoria’s first Commissioner for Residential Tenancies, was a guest speaker at the first Safe Place Homes Annual General Meeting on Saturday 20 November in the Senior Citizens Room at the Daylesford Town Hall. Safe Place Homes Inc. is a local group which advocates for social and affordable housing in Hepburn Shire.

Dr Holst has 30 years of experience working in the housing, renting and homelessness sectors, and until 2015, she led Australia’s only not-for-profit real estate agency, HomeGround Real Estate. In her role as Commissioner for Residential Tenancies, Dr Holst advocates for the rights of Victorian renters and residents of rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.

Dr Holst noted that the Commissioner’s job is to get the voice of tenants get to the table where decisions are made.

The Commissioner works with the Minister for Consumer Affairs and the Minister for Regional Affairs, currently our local MP, Mary-Anne Thomas.

In her work relating to homelessness Dr Holst commented that, “The best thing you can do is never let anyone get close to that – once a person has moved into homelessness, it’s much harder to address the situation.” Dr Holst also expressed the view that the Commonwealth role in housing needs to be reactivated. “It will take some brave policy decisions to do something about it,”she said.

Dr Holst commended Safe Place on its work. “What you are doing is absolutely the right thing. Solutions to the affordable housing crisis must take many forms. It is terrific to see the maturity of your group in recognising multiple solutions, such as a home-share program, small housing options and an affordable housing policy for the Shire.”

In her view, al levels of government have a role and local government is the least capable, in terms of policy and money.

Dr Holst recommended that Safe Place and Council strive to work with Homes Victoria. Homes Victoria has been established as an agency to deliver, partner, and strategise to support Victorians who are finding it difficult to secure stable, affordable housing and help them live their best possible life.

Dr Holst commented that land is the main problem in increasing housing and community land trusts are being explored as one way to assist. An innovative land solution recently used is the allocation of some VIC Roads land reserves for removable (demountable) housing. An example is the Harris Transportable Housing Project in Melbourne by Launch Housing.

Safe Place welcomes new members who wish to contribute to the work to increase social and affordable housing in Hepburn Shire. Safe Place can be contacted at

Mary-Faeth Chenery, PhD, is a Daylesford resident and the Vice-president of Safe Place Housing Inc.