Plan Melbourne, the latest 30-year plan for Greater Melbourne, commits the state government to exploring a series of policy responses to the housing crisis, including utilising government land to host social and affordable housing.
This report responds to this commitment by identifying over 195 hectares of government owned land that can host over 30,000 social and affordable homes. Use of lazy government land for affordable and social housing offers three simultaneous benefits: it can minimise the impact of spatial dislocation of low income households, it can reduce social housing development costs, and it can make more efficient use of existing government assets.
The report also finds that Victoria faces a shortage of at least 164,000 housing units that are affordable and available to very low and low-income households. Using public land to provide social and affordable housing is one mechanism to address this critical deficit that can reduce social housing development costs by up to 30%. This report contends that government land can assist the state in achieving a target of 30,000 new social and affordable housing units over the next 10 years (2019-2029), with an emphasis on meeting the needs of those most at risk of homelessness. Pairing government land with other support from a range of stakeholders could assist the state in meeting this target. This would serve as a significant step change that could support Victoria’s nascent community housing sector in scaling up to meet the broader need in future decades.
This report begins by outlining the current understanding of affordable rents for households across the state. It then utilises these definitions of affordable rents to specify a state-wide affordable housing deficit of 164,000 units. While some of this gap can be met through existing mechanisms like voluntary agreements with private developers to provide below market housing, other housing will need deeper forms of subsidy, such as land leased or donated by government to provide housing affordable to lower income households.
The location of social and affordable housing matters in terms of access to services, transport and amenity. The report introduces the Housing Access Rating Tool (HART), a 20 point scoring system applied to every parcel in Greater Melbourne and Geelong to identify sites suitable for social and affordable housing from a service and transport accessibility standpoint. The tool draws on current Victorian research and policy with a deepened emphasis on the needs of lower income households.
The report provides an inventory of over 250 sites owned by federal, state and local governments deemed suitable for housing based on HART and other local data. The inventory identifies and maps 195 hectares of publicly owned land and air rights that can host 30,000 social and affordable housing units. Most of these sites are community use sites that host community centres, parking, retail, libraries and vacant military installations. The inventory includes surplus, vacant and underutilised parcels. We call these parcels ‘lazy land’ as government could provide more public benefit from land ownership by blending social housing with existing uses on the sites.
The report then discusses how the identified land can be developed into social and affordable housing by layering other forms of subsidy into housing hosted on government land. It also draws on emerging practice in Victoria and abroad to highlight how innovative partnerships, funding models and design can yield additional housing on government sites while ensuring occupants have access to amenities, employment and transport options.