THE recent announcement that Bass Coast Shire has been allocated $25 million toward providing more public and community housing has rightly been welcomed by Bass Coast Shire Council. And surely anyone living in Bass Coast, with even the smallest sense of social justice, would also welcome this announcement.
Such is the extent of the current social housing shortage in Australia that it has been suggested we would need to build 100 dwellings a day for 20 years to provide a home for people with the most urgent housing need.
The terms public housing, social housing, and community housing are frequently used concomitantly, so it might be helpful to consider what each of these terms actually means. Social housing is both short and long-term rental housing that is owned and managed by the government or not-for-profit agencies. This may consist of either public housing which is long-term rental housing that government manages, or community housing, which is secure, affordable, long-term rental housing for people on low incomes or with special needs.
International examples of successful social housing
Unfortunately social housing has always had its problems, not the least of these being the stigma associated with this type of housing. It’s going to be absolutely crucial to the success of the roll-out of social housing across Victoria, including Bass Coast, to recognise the needs of the tenants beyond the physical infrastructure.
It has to be more than just putting people into houses. It should be about creating a community that can support them and value them for the contributions they can make to society. The provision of a support mechanism or helping hand to enable tenants to connect with their community and to once again become valued members of society is critically important here.
I note that Bass Coast Shire is in the process of developing its own housing strategy, and hope that community input will be sought as part of its development. Likewise, community input should be sought as important issues such as where to locate new social housing begin to be considered. For example, what is the best way to integrate social houses into our community?
Where are the best possible locations for such housing, say, in a place like Wonthaggi? Surely, the former Wonthaggi Secondary College senior campus site is one possibility. Centrally located for people who perhaps don't have a car and need to be close to shops and other services.
These are just a few preliminary thoughts from someone with an interest in social justice and it would be good to hear what others feel about this issue.
Prior to his retirement, Graeme was for a time, Executive Officer of the Co-operative Federation of Victoria, which counted amongst its membership a number of successful housing co-operatives. The co-operative model has always been a great way for people to meet a need that has otherwise been left unmet; social housing being a good example of this.