Public Housing
(Image: Wikimedia Commons/Sardaka)

The murder of Courtney Herron in Melbourne has again focused attention on the lack of options for homeless people in Victoria. And under Victoria’s Labor government, public housing investment is getting worse, not better.

Last November, Crikey reported that the Daniel Andrews government’s record in social housing investment was materially poorer than both that of his Coalition predecessor and the NSW coalition government — an unlikely result given the claim that Andrews’ was a highly progressive government, but one backed up the data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on public dwelling approvals.

Since then, however, the situation has worsened. According to the most recent data from the ABS, there were just 66 public housing dwelling approvals in Victoria in the three months to March. That followed an absolutely dire end to 2018: in November-December, there was a total of just seven approvals.

Of course, dwelling approvals — which depend on local council processes — are notoriously uneven. So let’s look at the average: in Victoria in the 12 months to March 2018, there were 45 approvals per month on average. In the 12 months to March 2019, there were just 30 a month on average. Or you can use the ABS’s smoothed-out trend figures: they show the monthly average of public housing approvals falling from 36 in the year to March 2018 to 31 in the year to March 2019, with just 7 approvals in trend terms — the lowest number in years — in March.

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Not that NSW under the Berejiklian government is living up to the standards set by Barry O’Farrell and Mike Baird: in NSW, the average monthly approval was 33 in the year to to March 2019, down from 53 in the year to March 2018.

Neither NSW nor Victoria are currently investing enough in social housing, and both are investing less now than the already low levels of 2017-18. The Queensland government is doing better: for a smaller population, it managed an average of 38 approvals per month in the year to March; Western Australia managed an average of 46.

If those smaller states can get more public houses into the market than Victoria and NSW, there’s something badly askew in the priorities of the governments of the two biggest states.