After announcing the game changing “Victoria’s Housing Statement” last Wednesday, Dan Andrews bowed out as Premier leaving the heavy lifting to deliver the affordable housing plan to his successor, Jacinta Allen. The State Government has an ambitious plan to tackle the housing crisis head-on with a number of initiatives to re-think our past approaches and deliver 800,000 new homes in Victoria over the next decade, as well as improve the quality of affordable housing and renters’ conditions.
This announcement came just one day after Hepburn Shire approved its own Affordable Housing Strategy which addresses ways in which council can work in partnership with community and other stakeholders to find people in our shire an appropriate home in which to live.
As this community has been aware for several years, the housing shortage in Hepburn Shire, and Daylesford in particular, has reached crisis levels.
“Each night in Hepburn Shire there are people who do not have a safe, secure home – staying in emergency accommodation, couch surfing, sleeping in their car, or rough sleeping. In addition, over 30% of people are experiencing housing stress – where the cost of rent is so high they can’t afford to pay for food, medical care or other basic living expenses. This has a flow on effect to businesses, which find it hard to find and keep staff, and local groups which miss out on the energy and skills of volunteers.” (A Home in Hepburn Shire) Families have had to move out of towns where they work or children go to school in order to find an affordable place to live.
At last, local, state and federal governments are catching up and addressing these issues. The Federal Government recently introduced the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill and the National Planning Reform Blueprint to deliver better housing outcomes.
Affordable Housing Strategy
Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the changes proposed by Hepburn Shire’s Affordable Housing strategy. You can read the full strategy on the Council website: A Home in Hepburn Shire – Affordable Housing Strategy
Establish a Housing Working Group with stakeholders and members of the community and appoint a Housing Officer to drive the action plan. Actions include:
Investigate opportunities for:
- innovative housing models such as communal, co-living, community land trusts, owner’s corporations, or eco villages.
- Home Share programs including multigeneration accommodation arrangements and accommodation for key workers
- Facilitate secondary dwellings, permanent caravans/ relocatable dwellings , such as Mt Alexander Shire’s Tiny House local law.
- residential use of space above commercial premises
- local law regulations on the required standards for operation of short-stay accommodation, including annual registration of premises operating conditions, and accessibility for people with disabilities
- supporting providers that can deliver specialist housing for vulnerable people, and work with DJAARA to support Aboriginal Housing
- Increase housing supply on land identified for residential use through structure planning for Hepburn’s key townships.
Victoria’s Housing Statement – The Decade Ahead 2024 – 2034
These are some key points from the Victorian Housing Statement.
- $1 billion Regional Housing Fund to deliver more than 1,300 new homes across regional Victoria including a mix of social and affordable housing.
- Investing $150 million in a Regional Worker Accommodation Fund to provide new housing options for regional communities where key workers are struggling to find affordable places to live.
- Bring in 90 new planners to help clear the backlog in the planning system and work with local councils to resolve issues and avoid VCAT.
- Make the Minister for Planning the decision maker for significant residential developments that include affordable housing.
- Streamline the planning process for medium to high density residential developments worth at least $15 million in regional Victoria, including new build-to-rent projects.
- Making it easier to build a small second home on the same lot – such as granny flats or dwelling garden units which won’t require a planning permit if they’re less than 60 square metres.
- Streamline assessment pathways for faster planning permits.
- A statewide short stay accommodation levy of 7.5% The entire levy goes to Homes Victoria and 25% to be spent on building regional affordable housing.
- Unlock surplus government land in regional Victoria with 10% affordable housing to be built across these sites.
- Improve renter rights and strengthen design standards to ensure high quality apartment builds.
How will these changes affect us here in Hepburn Shire?
Changes to the roles of councils in the planning system have been foreshadowed and this report confirms that “State Government will review and rewrite the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to build a modern, fit-for-purpose planning system.”
Hepburn Shire council is concerned that local governments need to play a role in the planning process to ensure that local knowledge and attention to special features such as neighbourhood character, environmental and heritage values are considered. We continue to advocate for this along with other councils across Victoria.
Tourism boards have responded to the announcement of a 7.5% levy on short-term accommodation by requesting that a more moderate amount of 3 – 5% be considered. There are concerns that the higher rate may impact the tourist economy and that regions will only receive 25% of housing from the fund.
With a new Premier at the helm, it will be interesting to see how these changes play out and in what way councils can work with state government to achieve the best outcomes.
However, Hepburn Shire is committed to getting on the front foot and enacting our new housing strategy by forming a working group and appointing a Housing Officer.
After years of housing uncertainty and stress for our community I am pleased to see all three levels of government tackling the issue of providing a safe, liveable home which is a basic human right for everyone.
Councillor Jen Bray is a Daylesford resident and an elected Councillor for Birch Ward.
Councillor Columns are a regular feature in The Wombat Post. We offer these spaces as an information channel from Council to the community. Councillor Columns are not subject to editorial review by our editorial committee but are published as we receive them from our elected Councillors.