Concerns raised by Beyond Housing for no new public housing in Shepparton

By Liz Mellino

BeyondHousing has raised concerns about Shepparton being left out of an initial roll-out of new public housing dwellings to be built across Victoria.

Chief executive Celia Adams commended the $209million announced in the state budget this week to construct 1000 new public housing dwellings across the state but expressed concern that the Shepparton area was not considered in the initial round of funding.

Ms Adams said this raised concerns given Shepparton had the highest rate of homelessness in regional Victoria according to data released by the Council to Homeless Persons last year.

‘‘Shepparton has 372 homeless with Geelong coming in second at 295 — we are disappointed not to receive first-round funding for more housing in our region,’’ she said.

‘‘With the initial funding in the 2019 budget channelled into 160 new properties in Geelong, Ballarat and Metro Melbourne areas, we hope Shepparton and other areas in our catchment are included in the next announcement.’’

A spokesperson for Housing Minister Richard Wynne did not directly address the Shepparton concerns but cited programs and funding streams which more broadly support those suffering homelessness across the state.

‘‘Every Victorian deserves to feel safe and secure with a roof over their head and we work with homelessness services to make this a priority,’’ the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the budget not only included $209 million for 1000 new properties, but $50.4 million for homelessness services and $23.9 million to prioritise women and children escaping family violence.

Another $103.5 million in matched funding through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement was cited, which provides funding certainty for 48 agencies delivering services to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness — as was a $45 million rough sleepers’ package that puts teams of outreach workers and supportive housing teams across the state.

Beyond Housing, which has offices in Shepparton, Seymour, Wangaratta and Wodonga, did welcome a number of other funding initiatives announced in the Victorian Government’s 2019-20 budget released on Monday.

The organisation welcomed a re-commitment to funding the Private Rental Assistance Program.

Ms Adams said PRAP funding was used in the private rental market to help tenants who were at risk of losing their private rental tenancy or required immediate rehoming.

Initially only funded to June this year, Ms Adams said more than 647 people were assisted by PRAP in the Goulburn catchment, with 622 of those able to move into private rental properties.

‘‘We know that this program is working, it is making a significant difference to the housing outcomes for many people in our catchments,’’ she said.

‘‘The commitment to re-funding the program will help BeyondHousing continue to assist those at risk of homelessness including vulnerable women and children and alleviate the risk of them having to choose between going homeless or returning to their abusers.’’

This initiative will see on-site treatment services in crisis supported accommodation, private

In order to meet the increasing demand for people in crisis, Ms Adams said BeyondHousing was keen to see additional funding allocated for the Housing Establishment Fund.

The HEF is used to assist eligible clients in accessing or maintaining private rental housing or emergency short-term accommodation, which Ms Adams said was vital to the organisation’s support work.

‘‘We’re funded to assist 1268 people per year and already by end of April 2019 we’ve seen 1929 people ...

‘‘As demand far outweighs supply, organisations such as ours are committing our own funding to bridge the gap so we can provide assistance to everyone who needs it,’’ Ms Adams said.