Published on Thursday 11, November 2021

IMCL has provided a lead role in coordinating the community sector response to the Review of Social Housing Regulation. The Review was announced as part of the Victorian Government's 'Big Housing Build' and will consult various stakeholders including housing providers, peak bodies and consumer and resident groups. It will examine the regulatory oversight system, the case for common regulation of social housing, and the case for Victoria's participation in the national regulatory scheme.

While 'regulation' might sound boring, this review has the opportunity to clearly set fundamental protections for people deemed eligible for social housing, who have often waited for many years on a waiting list. It asks what we as a society expect for people for whom the private rental market has failed.

You can visit our law reform and submissions page to view and download all of our submissions to the Review, or continue to read below for short summaries of our submissions to Consultation Paper 1, 2 and 3.

Together with a group of community legal centres that provide assistance to people with tenancy related needs, we responded to Consultation Paper 1, which invited feedback on the terms and scope of the inquiry. Our joint submission set-out key underlying principles that should inform the review.

  • A fair regulatory system must deliver positive renter outcomes for all people living in social housing, with key measures of success being the provision of safe, suitable, secure and affordable housing.

  • Robust data analysis must be used and future regulation should be underpinned and accessible data that demonstrates positive renter outcomes and identifies where there are areas of concern.

  • There should be a clear and consistent standard of rights for everyone who lives in social housing:

    • Tenants should not be left worse-off based on the type of social housing (public or community) that they are allocated.

    • Community housing provider policies must provide equitable support and protections, and be publicly available.

  • The human rights of all social housing renters must be enforceable through the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic): The Charter provides an effective tool to ensure the human rights of renters in social housing, yet not all community housing providers recognise their obligations under the Charter. In contrast, Home Victoria uses the Charter to inform decision-making and embed human rights in their policies and procedures.

We also made a subsequent substantive submission provided to Consultation Paper 2 on the tenant experience and services, and provided a brief response to Paper 3.

Our submission to Consultation Paper 2 highlighted the trend in government investment towards relying on CHPs and proposed a number of recommendations to protect social housing tenants during this shift in housing policy. These recommendations included:

  • Strengthening renters' voices through human rights:requiring all agencies registered under the Housing Act to be bound by the Charter in their decision-making and to communicate this via public-facing statements and policies.

  • The fair allocation of homes:ensuring that allocations to rooming houses do not count as long-term housing and requiring that all social housing providers are required to publicly report on allocation data.

  • Transparency for renters: that the Victorian Ombudsman has clear jurisdiction to oversee community housing organisations and that decisions by social housing providers are made accessible under FOI provisions

  • Access to consistent and transparent model rules: that publicly accessible model rules be developed for the community housing sector that are of a standard equivalent to public housing tenancy management policies.

  • Robust accountability: establishing the Social Housing Inspectorate to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with social housing rules and creating a central housing appeals office to oversee complaints of all social housing renters.

  • Independent integrated services: banning housing providers from providing support services directly to renters and expanding legal assistance provision beyond tenancy.

Responding to Consultation Paper 3, IMCL commented on:

  • The interaction of contracts and regulation: providing that a minimum standard of policies and procedures governing the tenancy relationship should be established to simplify contracts and ensure certainty.

  • For profit providers: noting the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care in asserting that the social housing system in Victoria should avoid relying on for-profit-providers.

  • Affordable housing: arguing that the government should steer away from subsidising affordable housing as part of social housing investment because by definition it remains unaffordable for most people on welfare.

  • Growth and providers diversity: reflecting findings that smaller organisations provide a better quality of care, establish appropriate regulation in relation to the diversity of providers.

We are now working with the community legal sector on a response to the paper on Aboriginal Housing, an area of critical importance. 

Visit our Law Reform Submissions page to read our full submissions.