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Understanding and responding to the housing needs of people experiencing and using family violence is a key part of the family violence reform.

Meeting the housing needs of Victorians experiencing family violence is complex. Each victim survivor has different needs and considerations.

Emergency accommodation may be important in a crisis. However, many victim survivors want support to stay in their own homes. Those who cannot stay at home need assistance beyond short-term refuge. A stable home in a suitable location provide security and support stable work and education.

In addition to delivering better outcomes for individuals, timely access to stable long-term accommodation reduces the blockages in refuge and crisis accommodation.

Our focus continues to minimise risk during crises. We do this by supporting victim survivors to exit safely from a family violence situation. We are also delivering long-term solutions to re-establish stability for victim survivors, including children.

The focus for the Rolling Action Plan involves new activity and continued delivery of the significant long-term housing investments announced. This includes continuing to replace our communal refuges with new core and cluster model refuges providing greater privacy and independence and building more new social housing homes.

What has happened

Family violence is a leading cause of homelessness, especially for women and children. Homelessness can occur as a direct result of experiencing family violence and structural barriers. These barriers include gender inequality, a lack of affordable housing, and limited social support.

Victoria has commenced delivery of the Big Housing BuildExternal Link , which aims to increase social and affordable housing. On completion, it will deliver more than 9,300 social housing dwellings:

  • 1,100 dwellings will replace existing stock,
  • 8,200 will be new social housing dwellings, and
  • 2,900 will be new affordable market homes.

Home ownership offers great protections against family violence and gives victim survivors a chance to gain financial independence. The Big Housing Build is expected to provide a safe home for 1,000 victim survivors of family violence across Victoria. This investment is on top of the $498 million Building Works package for refurbishment and maintenance of existing public and community housing properties. The Building Works package includes a $10 million investment to increase support for women and children escaping family violence.

The Royal CommissionExternal Link found that housing pathways for victim survivors are ‘blocked up’ and not flowing as intended. It recognised that these blockages result in women and children remaining in refuges for longer periods. Over the past two years, the average length of stay for victim survivors in refuge has remained relatively stable (6.2 weeks in 2019–20 and 6.4 weeks in 2020–21).

Victorian private rental lawsExternal Link were updated in March 2021. These included higher protections for victim survivors and accountability for perpetrators of family violence:

  • The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal can now assist in removing perpetrators of family violence from rental agreements. This allows victim survivors and their children to remain in their own homes.
  • Victim survivors are not liable for damage caused by a perpetrator of family violence who does not live in the home.
  • Termination of rental agreements because of family violence must be heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal within three business days.

Our focus on the future of Victoria’s crisis accommodation continues to be the core and cluster model.

This includes 19 redeveloped and new family violence refuges across Victoria, including three new Aboriginal-specific refuges. The core and cluster model provides individual family units with on-site support which will provide greater independence, privacy and security for victim survivors, including children. As refuges are redeveloped, capacity for after-hours support will also be provided.

  • The Royal Commission recommended the government report annually on the unmet housing demand among people affected by family violence. The Royal Commission also recommended the government declare the proposed actions for meeting the continuing unmet housing demand (recommendation 20).

    On 10 February 2021, the Victorian government publicly published this data for the first time, with its actions for meeting the needs affected by family violence.

    Since 2016 we have:

    • acquired 325 social housing dwellings and head leased 401 medium-term tenancies from the sector
    • prioritised family violence victim survivors and their families for social housing through the Victorian Housing Register
    • provided over 6,500 flexible support packages each year to help victims survivors of family violence.

    This comes on top of the following investments:

    • We committed to building 1,000 new public dwellings for people experiencing homelessness. We have built 349 new homes across Victoria for people experiencing homelessness. Another 700 are currently under construction or about to begin construction.
    • We have provided 38 new and leased properties across regional Victoria, providing women and children a safe and secure environment in which to live.
    • We committed $30 million for the Regional Estate Revitalisation project to redevelop out-of-date public housing in Ballarat, Bendigo and Benalla over 10 years. To ensure the best outcomes for the redevelopment, community consultation on plans has occurred in Ballarat and Bendigo. Relocations have now commenced. The redevelopments will see a minimum 10 per cent growth in social housing. Aged dwellings will be replaced with additional growth in affordable and possibly private housing.
    • Over the past two years, the average length of stay in refuge has remained stable at approximately six weeks.
    • Nine family violence refuges have been redeveloped and are operational. These provide women and children with a safe and secure environment where support is available.
    • The Personal Safety Initiative continues to support victim survivors to access appropriate and effective technology and security. This allows them to remain safely in their own homes and communities. Personal safety responses for victim survivors experiencing or at risk of experiencing family violence are funded and accessed through the Victorian Government’s Family Violence Flexible Support Package program. Personal safety responses may include home modifications, personal duress alarms and CCTV.
    • The Men’s Accommodation and Counselling Service (previously known as the Perpetrator Accommodation and Support Service) supports eligible men who use violence. This includes crisis accommodation, wrap-around support to address immediate concerns and linking them to services to address their offending behaviour. This service was established during the COVID-19 pandemic. It helps to keep victim survivors safe in their own homes by providing crisis accommodation and support for perpetrators. From September 2020 to June 2021, 290 perpetrators were accommodated in the program and the program has been extended until 30 June 2022.
    • The Medium-Term Perpetrator Accommodation and Support Service complements the Men’s Accommodation and Counselling Service. It provides medium-term (up to six months) accommodation and case management support for people who use violence. This Service is being piloted in partnership with local housing providers. It is run by three perpetrator case management providers (in Central Highlands, Loddon and North East Melbourne) and two Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (in North East Melbourne, Hume Moreland an Inner Gippsland).
    • Aboriginal-specific refuges provide a space for Aboriginal women and children experiencing family violence to receive culturally appropriate support. The first refuge has been completed. The second is in the design phase. Land is being sourced for a third. Three core and cluster Aboriginal-specific refuges will be developed, rather than the initial two planned.
    • The Social Housing Growth FundExternal Link is providing safe, stable and secure housing for older women, women and children experiencing family violence, Aboriginal Victorians, people with a disability and people with a mental illness across the state. It is being implemented in partnership with the community housing sector. The program has delivered 133 new social housing dwellings. At least 75 per cent of these were allocated to applicants with a priority need for housing.

What is next?

Through 2022 the planning, redevelopment and construction of refuges and dwellings will continue. This includes:

  • continuing the redevelopment of 10 family violence refuges including the completion of a second Aboriginal-specific family violence refuge and the commencement of a third
  • construction of new public housing dwellings
  • delivery of an additional 18 new social housing dwellings under the Social Housing Growth Fund
  • consultation on the Benalla masterplan for the Regional Estate Revitalisation project
  • acquisition of a further 18 properties for women and their children.

We will also evaluate the Medium-Term Perpetrator Accommodation Service and determine next steps based on the key learnings and outcomes from the five pilot sites.

The social and affordable housing challenge will require ongoing effort over many years, extending beyond the Big Housing Build. That is why we are developing a new 10-year Strategy for Social and Affordable Housing in Victoria. We are committed to ensuring all Victorians have access to a safe, affordable and appropriate home. The new strategy will establish the 10-year vision for social and affordable housing in Victoria and build on the success of the Big Housing Build and other investment to date. What this means for outcomes

  • Family violence is the number one cause of homelessness for women in Victoria. We must continue to improve and increase social housing for victim survivors and their children. Providing safe and secure housing helps victim survivors to continue living their lives without the imminent threat of family violence. The core and cluster models we are implementing for family violence refuges allow victim survivors to live independently while also engaging with support services, creating the opportunity to rebuild their lives and thrive.

  • Ensuring that victim survivors of family violence can stay in their home while supporting perpetrators to move out is important to help hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. Supporting perpetrators to move out of the family home means that victim survivors are able to remain safely within their own home and community. Importantly, it also creates an opportunity to support perpetrators to change their behaviour. It also reduces the chance they will return to the family home if they feel they have nowhere else to go – potentially violating family violence intervention orders. The use of the personal safety responses supported by the Personal Safety Initiative deters perpetrators from breaching intervention orders. It also enables the collection of evidence to support criminal prosecutions when a breach occurs.

  • We know there are some cohorts of women who are more likely to experience homelessness than others, including Aboriginal women. Family violence is the leading reason Aboriginal women seek support from specialist homelessness services. By providing Aboriginal-specific refuges, we are building a system that is person-centred and responsive. This ensures the family violence system is accessible, available, person-centred and culturally relevant. The principles of self-determination underpin all housing responses to family violence. This assists in creating culturally safe environments for victim survivors.

Reviewed 14 April 2022

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