Housing and homelessness
Stable long-term and affordable housing provides people the opportunity to participate in the social, economic and recreational life of our city. Through social housing assistance and support for those experiencing homelessness, or those at risk of becoming homeless, the Government contributes to a safer, stronger and more inclusive community.
We are building connected and sustainable communities both in new suburban areas and urban renewal precincts, to respond to our city’s changing needs while enhancing Canberra’s liveability and strengthening social inclusion.
This year, we will deliver approximately $21 million in funding to Specialist Homelessness Services and Community Housing providers.
The ACT Government has made changes to ensure tenants, especially vulnerable tenants, are better supported in the ACT’s rental market to live securely and fairly. By protecting tenants from excessive rental increases and making it easier for them to keep pets and make minor modifications to their rental property, tenants can properly feel that their house is their home.
The ACT is bucking a national trend, with homelessness reducing in our community even as our population grows. The Government is committed to addressing homelessness and has been working with the specialist homelessness sector to help people quickly and early to prevent them from falling into crisis.
The ACT Housing Strategy was released in October 2018 and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to intervening early, addressing gaps, improving pathways out of homelessness and reducing the intergenerational impacts of homelessness.
We will continue to support Barnardos to operate and provide accommodation to young people who might otherwise be homeless and help them build life skills leading to a better and positive future. The ‘Our Place’ facility in Braddon can accommodate up to 24 young people at any one time.
In 2019–20 we will continue to help asylum seekers and families with uncertain immigration status and who are in need of housing assistance by providing much- needed accommodation support and helping them gain community connections.
This budget provides for 40 new units in Dickson as an extension of the Common Ground model. Common Ground in Dickson will assist with permanent supportive housing accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We are also providing tailored support to prevent older women falling into crisis and experiencing homelessness.
Owning a home or finding secure, affordable and suitable housing is central to our city’s inclusiveness but remains a challenge for many Canberrans.
The ACT Housing Strategy recognises the unique and complex challenges in the housing market and it is intervening with targeted policies to meet the Territory’s diverse and changing needs.
With our annual Public, Community and Affordable Housing Target we set a target of delivering 15% of the annual residential land release program for public, community and affordable housing.
This year the target is made up of 488 individual homes dedicated for affordable home purchase to eligible low-income households, along with 80 new public housing properties and 60 new community housing properties.
The public and community housing targets include those in the Common Ground Dickson development, which will provide 20 public housing and 20 community housing dwellings.
To boost the availability of affordable rental homes, we have legislated a land tax discount for up to 100 properties, to encourage private landlords to offer their properties below market rates. These landlords, working through community housing providers, can let their properties to tenants paying less than 75% of the market rent to increase the ACT’s affordable rental housing supply.
Ensuring standards in social housing
The ACT Government is successfully targeting public and community housing to people in greatest need, including people who are homeless, escaping domestic and family violence, in unhealthy living conditions, and for people whose housing costs are unaffordable. In total, we manage approximately 11,700 public housing properties, providing long term, stable and affordable housing for approximately 22,000 people across Canberra.
In May 2019 we announced a new five-year program of public housing renewal and growth, which will see more than half a billion dollars invested in new public housing in Canberra. A $100 million net investment will renew 1,000 homes and add at least 200 new homes to our public housing portfolio. The investment will be supplemented by the sale and renewal of old public housing properties, which is forecast to generate an additional $500 million and will be directly reinvested into public housing.
Our commitment to public housing renewal has already renewed 1,288 homes and was awarded the 2018 Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW/ACT award for Excellence in Social Infrastructure.
These new pblic housing properties are more comfortable, energy efficient, adaptable for people of varying ages and abilities, and suited to accommodating families or individuals. Housing ACT is working with tenants as they move into their new homes and are providing ongoing support, to ensure tenants have access to services and opportunities to improve their quality of life.
Community-building through technology
In 2019-20 we’re on track to deliver a client portal that gives social housing tenants up-to-date information about their tenancy and accounts. Soon, tenants will have access to their tenancy information anywhere and at any time through the use of their mobile phone or digital device, as well as access to a suite of application forms for social and affordable housing services that can be completed and submitted online.
Over the next year we will continue to invest in digital technology to make the ACT one of the first jurisdictions in Australia to deliver choice-based letting. The new digital platform will empower social housing tenants to identify and move into properties that better suit their needs, as their needs change, and is designed to help social housing tenants be more mobile and improve utilisation of the ACT Government’s housing portfolio overall.
Other initiatives with ongoing support include:
- The Rental Bond Help program assisting eligible Canberrans to cover the upfront cost of a rental bond, with an interest free loan repaid to Housing ACT in instalments for up to two years. In 2019-20 this program is expected to help between 300 and 500 people entering the private rent market.
Ongoing maintenance and upgrade of public housing homes, with a new Total Facilities Management contract in place since November 2018. In 2019-20, Housing ACT in collaboration with Programmed FM will strive to improve social outcomes through training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans, Canberrans with disability, young people and public housing tenants.
- Continuing collaboration with social housing tenants to build a social landlord framework, to set industry standards and achieve be tter outcomes for people living in social housing.
Housing to keep young families safe and connected to their communities
32-year-old Anna*, a mother of two, found herself couch surfing between relatives or sleeping in her car with her children after family violence against her and her children ended her relationship.
Anna had endured a traumatic childhood, compounded by a chronic physical illness. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother suffered from mental illness. Her children were traumatised by the violence they had seen at home, and the numerous moves they’d had to make to stay safe.
When Anna reached out for help, the ACT Government-funded OneLink hub found secure shared accommodation for Anna and her children with one of Canberra’s specialist homelessness services. As soon as the family was settled in, they were provided with case management support, and the children started seeing a counsellor.
The service provided much more than accommodation; it ensured Anna and her kids were connected to adequate medical care, education, employment and financial counselling. To help move the family into longer-term social housing through Housing ACT, OneLink coordinated documents and letters from doctors, psychologists and counsellors, making sure they’d have ongoing assistance once they moved in.
Within months, the family was granted priority housing allocation through Housing ACT near their preferred location. With the ongoing support of her case worker, Anna enrolled in a Certificate III Business Administration course and both children were able to stay enrolled in their school.
*Not her real name