Mitchell Shire Council advocates for affordable housing

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Advocacy, leveraging the land use planning system, working in partnership to provide incentives and exploring opportunities will form part of Mitchell Shire Council’s Affordable Housing Strategy 2023.

Council formally adopted the strategy at its meeting last week – a project that began in 2021, following participation in the Social Housing Investment Planning project.

The project was funded through a Department of Health and Human Services grant and partnered between Hume, Whittlesea and Mitchell councils to unlock social housing options in growth areas.

‘Affordable housing’ in the strategy refers to housing that meets the definition in the Planning and Environment Act 1987 – having an eligibility requirement and allocation processes to make sure it is made available to very low, low and moderate-income households that are not able to meet housing needs through private rental or home ownership.

The 2021 Census reported at least 530 households, 3.1 per cent, were in need of affordable housing in Mitchell Shire, while 1598, 8.8 per cent, of households were in housing stress.

As of June 2023, there were also 906 households on the Victorian Housing Register’s priority access list for public housing in the Mitchell Shire.

The strategy established a reasonable target for council to increase the provision of social housing to four per cent of total households over the next 20 years, with a focus on advocacy, engagement and partnerships, leveraging land use planning system and providing incentives and opportunities.

By using a rate of four per cent, the number of additional dwellings delivered by 2041 would total 2551, equating to 128 new affordable homes per year.

Cr Rhonda Sanderson said a lot of work had been put into the strategy.

“There’s been a fair amount of work put into this strategy over what seems like well over a year,” she said.

“Council’s role in this sphere is mostly influence and advocacy though within this document, and it’s quite a good document, it sets a clear direction for council’s advocacy and influence directions.

“It puts council in a strong position to negotiate with developers and other builders of affordable housing and it also talks to land use planning in the newer developments in the shire … so there’s possibilities for innovative ways to create affordable housing and social housing.

“I would like to recommend we adopt this social housing strategy and try to move this strategy forward for our shire in improving the housing that we already have and also try to get some happening in the south where we have virtually none.”

Cr Nathan Clarke said he had seen the need for housing in the community.

“I think what we’re looking at is a growing problem and this is part of it that goes some way to addressing it,” he said.

“Anecdotally looking on social media, people are often asking if there’s free housing available in the private rental market and you know that they’re leaving the housing that they have in the area simply because the rents have moved and they’re in financial difficulty and looking for a cheaper place.

“Often they cannot find housing in the same area where they are, so that means moving themselves, their families, their children – they’re in a very difficult position and this is one part of the problem.”