Housing definitions

Dear Editor,

I congratulate the News for initiating its series on the role of housing in our society. I missed the first four articles, but have caught up with the last two. Unfortunately, they were sometimes confusing because they used different terminology interchangeably. This lead one contributor to suggest that the government had announced a $5.3 billion public housing program. Sadly, not a cent of that money will be spent on public housing.

Instead, it will fund a several projects with community housing organisations and private developers. For example, in one project public housing will be demolished altogether – and replaced by a mix of community housing and private housing. Another project will purchase private housing and provide rental subsidies to make them affordable. None will build new public housing.

Victoria’s Housing Act 1983 was amended in 2016 to introduce a new term: social housing. It is an umbrella term embracing both public and community housing. It is used by the government when it really means community housing, thus concealing the fact that public housing is no longer a government priority. 

Public housing is owned and managed by the state. Community housing is managed, and sometimes owned, by a community housing organisation. These organisations often provide inferior conditions for tenants, and always charge higher rents.

‘Affordable housing’ is defined (in the Planning and Environment Act 1987, for those interested) as suitable for specific income ranges. It includes social housing. Yet one of your contributors writes about it as though it is quite separate.

To avoid confusion, it would be useful if your contributors specified what type of housing was being discussed, that is, is it public or community housing? Or something else? It is best to talk about social housing only when it is being used in its catch all context. If this happened, neither readers nor contributors should be confused.

Jan Lacey

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