A lack of options for secure long-term housing is the main challenge facing domestic and family violence services and their clients, new research has found.
An Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report released this week found government investment in social housing is inadequate and access is restricted to those in greatest need.
The report, titled Housing outcomes after domestic and family violence, says there is little integration between domestic and family violence response and the wider housing system, meaning women leaving violent relationships are unable to obtain long-term, safe, affordable, accessible and appropriate housing.
"Without secure housing, vulnerable families remain in crisis and transitional housing for longer than is appropriate. This... puts pressure on the whole crisis response system," the report says.
A lack of affordable and accessible housing is felt acutely in Ballarat, where the rental vacancy rate is at a record low and social services have united in a call for increased investment in affordable housing.
REIV data shows rental prices are also rising while Ballarat's rental vacancy rate dropped to 0.7 per cent late last year, the lowest rate recorded in Victoria.
Uniting Ballarat has revealed there are frequently more than 100 households waiting on the priority waiting list for public housing in Ballarat.
The Housing outcomes report revealed the lack of adequate and affordable housing was leading some women to make the decision to return to, or remain in, a violent relationship. Many decide returning to the perpetrator is a better, safer option for them and their children instead of housing options that are substandard, in a neighbourhood that feels dangerous or involve frequent moves.
While private rental market subsidies have become the housing assistance policy of preference for Australian governments, the report's authors warn the assumption that the private rental market will act as part of the social welfare system is 'overly optimistic'.
"Both women and service providers consistently report that private landlords perceive women with children-who often have undocumented or unstable tenancy histories, low incomes and a need for service support-to pose a risk to either rental returns or the condition of the property," the report said.
"The tighter the market, the greater the capacity of landlords to choose their tenants from other applicants perceived to offer less risk and with greater financial capacity."
The Council to Homeless Persons campaign Everybody's Home is calling on the government to support first home buyers, develop a National Housing Strategy to meet Australia's identified shortfall of 500,000 social and affordable rental homes, support renters and develop a plan to end homelessness by 2030.