SIX areas on the Mornington Peninsula suffer housing stress 33 per cent higher than the national average.
They are Bittern/Crib Point, Dromana/Safety Beach, Hastings, Rosebud and surrounding district, Rye/Tootgarook/St Andrews Beach and Portsea/Sorrento/Blairgowrie.
A household under stress is defined as being one that spends more than 30 per cent of its gross income on rent or housing costs.
Data from the latest census (2016) shows the peninsula has the sixth highest number of rough sleepers of Victoria’s 79 municipalities.
Their plight is compounded by an under-supply of affordable and social housing, particularly one or two-bedroom dwellings, and that there is no dedicated, affordable emergency accommodation on the peninsula.
In June, the Department of Housing’s Frankston office – which services the peninsula – found that of the 2143 applications for accommodation, 995 were eligible for priority access to accommodation.
The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said it was concerning that Southern Peninsula Community Support, which is on the frontline of providing services to the homeless, was bracing for the end of the federal government’s JobKeeper program on 28 March.
“The [service has] been overwhelmed,” she said, referring to pleas for help by those who lost jobs and suffered housing stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They have never seen anything worse and yet worse is to come.”
The shire provides finance and a headquarters for the service founded in 1980. The money comes from the Department of Social Security, as well as donations from individuals, philanthropic trusts and charitable organisations.
Cr O’Connor said the service “uses every cent they get” to provide for their clients. “I want to raise awareness. I’ve seen what they are talking about,” she said. “I want people to be aware of how desperate their need is.”
Cr O’Connor said outsiders were mistaken in believing the peninsula was home to a mostly wealthy population.
“We are like bookends – perhaps more than anywhere else in Victoria – with wealthy people on the one hand and lots of needy on the other. And some of the wealthiest could solve this problem by themselves.”
Many homeless people were hiding in plain sight, she said. “We’ve all got an image of what homelessness looks like. Now we can see them on the street every day.
“But we are not sitting on our hands – we want to help.”
The shire, while acknowledging that federal and state governments were primarily responsible for providing social housing, believed it had an “important, although limited, role to play”.
The council’s Triple A Housing Plan 2020-30 aims to guide it in achieving affordable, appropriate and available housing. It is supported by a social and affordable housing policy and a rooming house policy.
Under the plan, clients have access to shelter, food and basic utilities. Housing assistance services, housing providers and community organisations, work to prevent homelessness and provide support services.
The shire says it is “actively advocating” for more social and affordable housing. CEO John Baker recently reinforced the council’s written submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria by making a presentation during an online hearing.
The state government’s Plan Melbourne 2017-50 identifies the need to provide housing choice and meet changing household needs. One option could be to provide secondary dwellings, or small dwellings, either detached or attached, to another house. These diverse and affordable housing options allow extended families to live together, couples to downsize, and also provide rental options.
State Planning Minister Richard Wynne may consider rolling out a secondary dwelling code currently being trialed in four Victorian municipalities.
Shire councillors at the 9 March planning services committee meeting were told that secondary dwellings would provide more affordable housing options but may need to be refined for the peninsula to stop houses being used for tourist accommodation.
A submission to the minister has been prepared, outlining issues that should be considered prior to any roll out of the secondary dwelling code to all Victorian planning schemes.