AMID the imminent release of Victoria’s state budget, the government has this week announced the release of two important documents which will be of considerable interest to residents and decision-makers in Ballarat.
The papers – Pathways to a Fair and Sustainable Social Housing System and Social Housing and Options to Improve the Supply of Quality Housing – provide a framework for a new approach to public housing, an issue which continues to be at the forefront of debate about social inclusion and wellbeing in parts of our city.
The release of these documents marks the beginning of a three-month consultation process which aims to identify better outcomes for people in these communities.
It follows a damning report from the Victorian Auditor-General this year and an earlier parliamentary inquiry which identified the provision of social housing as unsustainable. Indeed, the auditor-general stated that the situation for public housing was critical.
That doesn’t comes as any shock to local residents who have been pleading for support in this area for not months, or years but decades.
And considerable work has been done. In Wendouree West and Delacombe, community renewal projects continue to have lasting positive impacts and benefits.
But the rental squeeze which has hit Ballarat hard and continuing increases in the cost of living has made people more vulnerable and susceptible to issues related to finding adequate accommodation.
Housing Minister Wendy Lovell this week accepted that the government must tackle the problems with public housing.
“Doing nothing, maintaining the status quo, is not an option if the community expects social housing to be provided into the future,” Ms Lovell said.
This area of public policy is complex and it is important that the pitfalls encountered by previous governments are addressed in this process.
The current government has taken upon itself to blame the previous Labor governments for neglect of public housing but has yet to come up with solutions of its own.
It must prove through this process that it is determined to put together a package which can take community concerns on board and deliver real and relevant change.
The beginning of the consultation process is a good step and one that The Courier would encourage Ballarat people to take part in.