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Saturday, 4 July 2015


What is the difference between public, community and social housing? 
Aren't they the same thing?  No they are not.

Community Housing is non-government housing which is intended to cater for tenants on
low to moderate incomes. In Victoria they consist of 8 large 'Affordable Housing' Associations which are also property developers and 34 other Community Housing Providers. There is at least 32 other community housing providers operating in Victoria which are not subject to any government policies.

The terms 'community' and 'social housing' should not be confused with public housing. Only public housing is government owned and government managed. There are protections in public housing such as flexible rents based on household income, and security of tenure which are all too often missing in community housing.

The language surrounding the privatisation of public housing is so full of spin that, in the
end, nobody knows what is going on. Warm fuzzy words like 'social', 'community' and 'affordable' housing can make it difficult to see that transferring stock equates to the privatisation by stealth of an essential public asset - public housing.

Look at the term 'not-for-profit'. People sometimes assume that not-for-profits are small
struggling organisations. Not necessarily so. Not-for-profits can be huge companies, most
certainly profit driven, often merging and swallowing up the smaller struggling groups
along the way - in fact behaving just like any other corporation.

Some history.

The growth of 'Community Housing' - sometimes referred to as social housing - and the transferring of public housing properties has already been going on for some years now - under the public radar.

Already Community Housing Providers in Victoria own 8,290 properties which were
funded by the government ( including the transferring of public housing properties.)*

A major marker happened in 2009 at a Council of Australian Governments ( COAG ) meeting. An agreement was made between all the state governments and the federal government – at the time Labor – to ensure that community housing businesses would end up with 35% of all the 'social housing' pie.

This would not be in addition to the amount of public housing available, but at the expense of our existing public housing stock.

In fact, to achieve this goal in Victoria would require a massive transfer of 12,000 public housing properties to community housing companies, and is likely to include public housing estates which are already tenanted. This, of course, was not made at all clear in the ambiguous language of government documents.

Furthermore these proposed transfers do not create any additional housing to meet the desperate need but simply result in a change of ownership and/or management.

The whole topic of the public housing stock transfers ( aka asset transfers ) has been kept
hushed up as 'in-house' information. The people in the know have been the heads of these
organisations, politicians, service providers and people who are working in the industry.
The media have not adequately covered the topic, if at all.

Yet it is an extremely important matter of public interest. This is not just a public tenant issue. The future of public housing concerns us all.

'Allocation, eligibility, and rent setting in the Australian community housing sector'  


  1. The 12000 public housing units (taxpayer owned managed by government units) are still on the books to be given over to 'social housing'. This is taking taxpayer owned property without any form of permission by the taxpayers (referendum or whatever) and handed over to non- taxpayer (ie corporate entity in some form) ownership. The crux is it no longer is government managed taxpayer owned, it is effectively private ownership and under a different set of rules as well.
    Then there is the question of who benefits in the long run, favoured mates, watch and see.
    Imagine your favourite large supermarket. If the manager there was to put all the profitable goods in three aisles, then sell off those three aisles to some buyer, how long would that manager be before getting tossed into the clink?
    Privatisation is the same principle. Taxpayer paid for and owned (morally at least if not technically since law changes a while ago) assets have been sold off willy nilly by successive governments, Kennett in Vic and Bligh in Qld are 'prime suspects'.Both were tarred with the same brush as history shows.

    Getting rid of public housing in much the same way by renaming all housing aimed at the lower income market as "social housing" and handing over government housing to some interim stage of operator under different rules, having no guarantees for secure long term affordable tenancy is just privatisation in disguise.

    We should all be screaming for MORE GOVERNMENT HOUSING. We should be demanding to know what the earlier idea of palming off 12000 public housing units is at. Will the ALP government guarantee us these are not going to be palmed off in any way? Will Daniel Andrews come out and tell us, prove to us, that the talk of selling the 12000 is gone, finished, done for ever.

    Further still, will Daniel Andrews start the process in words and in deed to replace the many thousands of government housing units we have lost over the past two decades, say, (and build them to the good standard of the comparitively new units in Elizabeth St North Richmond for example).

    Ideally, we should aim to have enough government housing so that anyone who wants to rent a government home is able to do so, regardless of income. (I doubt there would be too many billionaires applying).

    Before housing tenants and concerned taxpayers vote at the election next year (2016) these questions need answers. We need to see action, not just hollow promises, we need allocated land, planning and finance being processed so we know its real. Yes one is state the other federal, but on the "touch one touch all" principle to punish the federal lot because of the state action or failed action holds good (both ways) so far as I am concerned.

  2. John Pilger is correct, unfortunately the pool is constantly being muddied by the various references relating to housing people outside the private rental market. The numbers of public housing tenants are being reduced by stealth by ongoing transfers to the housing associations, with less rights than what they had before the transfers. Slick spin doctoring by previous Labour and current coalition State governments to paper over the immense problem of insufficient public housing places is not the way to go