Victoria has thousands of empty public housing dwellings and the worst occupancy rate in the nation

Housing Minister Harriet Shing said the Productivity Commission was using old figures and that as of March this year less than 1.8 per cent of public homes were vacant and ready to be re-let.

“We work hard to ensure all vacant properties are tenanted as soon as possible with more than 7,000 households moving into social housing last financial year – an increase of 29 per cent from the previous year,” Shing said.

“We are also investing record amounts to increase the supply of social housing across the state – under the historic $5.3 billion Big Housing Build, we are on track to deliver at least 12,000 new social and affordable homes to help house applicants from the Victorian Housing Register.”

This month’s budget, which forecasts net debt to hit $187.8 billion by June 2028, delayed a slew of infrastructure projects that Treasurer Tim Pallas insisted was to “better reflect workforce capacity”. Labor says it wants to build 800,000 homes over a decade, despite home-building approvals crashing to a decade-low.

The Productivity Commission’s mid-year report has reignited a debate about whether Labor is doing enough for Victorians at risk of homelessness after being in power for almost a decade.

Shadow housing minister Richard Riordan said the figures once again confirmed that public housing was in decline under Labor.

“It is shameful that after a decade of Labor and billions of dollars spent, there remain more than 60,000 families in desperate need of a home whilst wait times continue to rise,” Riordan said.

“Labor’s big housing con is poorly targeted, poorly managed and not delivering for homeless Victorians.”


Former Greens leader Samantha Ratnam, the party’s public and affordable housing spokesperson, also said the situation was dire.

“The Victorian Labor government must immediately increase funding for public housing maintenance to ensure more Victorians in need of housing can have a roof over their head,” she said.

This month’s budget allocated an extra $19 million to assist public housing tenants in getting their requests for help resolved more quickly and efficiently.

The Productivity Commission’s mid-year update also suggests Victoria retains the second-worst occupancy rate for community housing dwellings, second only to the ACT.

Public housing is owned and managed by the state government, while community housing is managed but not always owned by not-for-profit organisations. In either case, tenants pay below-market rent. Social or affordable housing is the umbrella term that applies to both models.

Community Housing Industry Association Victoria chief executive Sarah Toohey said it took an average of 25 days to re-let community housing dwellings in Victoria.

“Victorians are enduring the worst housing crisis in their lifetimes,” Toohey said. “Our state needs much more social housing, and it needs to be occupied as quickly as possible.”

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