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Review of Social Housing Regulation

The Victorian Government is undertaking an independent review of regulation of public, community and affordable housing.

Background

An independent ‘Review of Social Housing Regulation’ was announced in November 2020. This is part of the Victorian Government’s $5.3 billion ‘Big Housing Build’.

The review will:

  • examine regulatory oversight
  • consider how the system can support high-quality resident and community outcomes in public, community, and affordable housing
  • ensure strong resident outcomes over the long term
  • examine the case for common regulation for all social housing (public and community)
  • examine the case for Victoria's participation in the national regulatory scheme.

The review panel is chaired by Professor David Hayward and is supported by Dr Heather Holst and Dr David Cousins AM. The panel will report to the Assistant Treasurer and the Minister for Housing in March 2022.

The panel will consult with a wide range of stakeholders over the coming months. These include:

  • housing providers
  • peak bodies
  • unions
  • consumer and resident groups
  • financial institutions.

The review will explicitly consider the views of Aboriginal Victorians. This is so Victoria’s housing system reflects culturally safe housing and services. The review will also consider how the regulatory system enables self-determination by supporting more housing for Aboriginal Victorians by Aboriginal organisations. This is in line with the Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework.

The full Terms of Reference are below.

Approach to the review

The Review Panel will be consulting using a range of methods including meetings with stakeholders, roundtables and site visits.

Written submissions will be invited from stakeholders and the public in response to a number of consultation papers and an interim report.

Three consultation papers will be published, each focusing on different aspects of the Terms of Reference.

A parallel consultation process will be conducted on issues specific to Aboriginal housing and stakeholders. A paper will be published on the findings and options.

A final report will be provided to the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing by 31 March 2022 containing the Panel's recommendations.

Members of the Panel

  • Professor David Hayward, Chair
    • Emeritus Professor of Public Policy and the Social Economy at RMIT University
    • Dean of Business at Swinburne University (2004-2009)
    • Dean of Social Science at RMIT University (2009-2016)
    • Member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Melbourne Hospital (2008-2013)
    • Chair of Finance Committee

    David is a life member of the Victorian Council of Social Service. In 2015, he was invited to become a seconded member of its governing board (resigned in June 2018).

    In 2013, he was elected as Chair of RMIT’s Academic Board (the University’s principal academic committee). He was twice re-elected unopposed. While in this position, he also served on University Council and its Infrastructure and Information Technology sub-committee. He retired in December 2018.

    In October 2020, Minister Neville appointed him as Chair of Fire Rescue Victoria’s Strategic Advisory Committee.

    David’s research interests include the funding of social policy with a focus on the State Governments.

    He has been widely published on a range of topics, including:

    • NDIS (Journal of Critical Social Policy)
    • the social economy (VCOSS)
    • state and federal government elections (The Conversation)

    He is a regular commentator on social and economic affairs for ABC radio and The Age newspaper.

    His most recent work focuses on:

    • innovation in carbon trading in East Timor (for the European Union)
    • the funding, efficiency, and effectiveness of fire services in the ACT and Victoria (for the United Firefighters Union)
    • the impact of coronavirus government stimulus measures on poverty rates (for VCOSS)
    • evaluating the University of Western Australia’s postgraduate programs as a Review Panel Member

    He is regularly invited to give talks and lectures. He’s a regular contributor to The Age.

    December 2020

  • Dr Heather Holst, Panel Member

    Heather Holst is the Commissioner for Residential Tenancies in Victoria. Her role as Commissioner is to champion the rights of Victorian renters.

    She has 30 years of experience in the housing and homelessness sectors. She began as a volunteer before becoming a frontline worker. She has work experience in many community organisations and in state government - in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

    Dr Holst went on to design and operate a range of housing projects and support programs. These were always with an emphasis on cooperation and on the rights and needs of consumers.

    Dr Holst has a PhD in Australian History and has been involved with numerous housing research projects. It is her belief that the best possible services are built on evidence - and that this evidence must be put into practice to solve the problem of housing all people well.

  • Dr David Cousins AM, Panel Member

    David Cousins has had extensive experience in public sector policy and regulation roles.

    Past positions include:

    • Chairman of the Prices Surveillance Authority
    • Commissioner with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
    • Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria.

    He has conducted major reviews of regulation across many sectors of the economy.

    David has worked for many years in university teaching and research. He has also worked in private sector consulting.

  • Purpose

    The Review of Social Housing Regulation aims to identify future regulatory arrangements to provide strong resident protection, better information to Victorians and position social housing for growth and transformation over the next decades.

    It will assess the settings for regulation that best support the long-term interests of social housing residents and their communities. It will also assess settings required for significant growth in social and affordable housing as well as an independent regulatory system that provides adequate prudential and operational oversight, resident protections and reduced red tape.

    The review terms of reference include:

    • a focus on resident voice, resident and community outcomes and transparent reporting of sector performance (Terms 1 to 3 below)
    • advice on how the regulatory system can best support the long-term interests of social housing residents and communities, how it can enable significant growth with adequate prudential and operational oversight but without unnecessary regulation and reporting, and regulatory scope across community, public and affordable housing (Terms 4 to 8 below)
    • the case for moving towards national regulation (Term 9 below).

    The Review will commence in December 2020, develop an interim report for consultation by June 2021 and deliver a final report to the Assistant Treasurer and the Minister for Housing by December 2021.

    In preparing the interim and final reports, the Review Panel will consider the following:

    Resident voice and outcomes

    Assess how regulation can include a stronger focus on resident voice and resident and community outcomes and develop options to provide residents with a stronger voice in the management and operation of social housing providers.

    Provide advice on the degree to which residents’ rights should be harmonised under public and community housing models and options to ensure an effective and coherent complaints management and redress system across the social housing system.

    Assess options for best practice frameworks that provide Victorians with easily understood and comparable information to assess the performance of social housing providers that support consumer choice.

    Reform to the Victorian Regulatory System (VRS)

    Assess the Victorian Regulatory System for Community Housing to support the long-term interests of Victorians, including settings for the Housing Act 1983 (Vic), performance standards, intervention powers and registration requirements, and consider appropriate amendments to support growth in social housing. Consider appropriate amendments to the Victorian Regulatory System to support the $5 billion housing stimulus package and anticipated growth in the community housing sector.

    Assess whether:

    • public housing activities should be covered in common regulatory arrangements with the community housing sector, including asset, financial, performance, resident and housing services and reporting
    • affordable housing (particularly affordable housing receiving public subsidy or assistance) should be included in the regulatory system and what amendments may be required to incorporate them
    • emerging entities and funding vehicles within the social housing sector are appropriately regulated and consider any gaps in regulation, and whether Special Purposes Vehicles and other housing bodies outside of the current regulatory system should be brought within the system.

    Provide advice on options to reduce regulatory and administrative burden and/or duplicative reporting across the social housing system, while ensuring an appropriate level of regulation to manage the identified risks and interests of consumers.

    Provide advice on enhancements to performance frameworks, and their enabling processes and systems, across the social housing system including options to improve data management, reporting and information sharing opportunities and protocols across government.

    Assess options to measure the performance of public housing and community housing agencies and promote competitive neutrality to enable all sectors to have an equal opportunity to attract growth and funding and to position community housing and public housing on an equal footing into the future. The review should consider barriers, financial or otherwise, to this objective, as well as prior work on this issue, including by the Productivity Commission and the Victorian Auditor General.

    The case for national regulation

    Develop recommendations for future regulation of the sector, particularly whether Victoria should:

    • retain the Victorian Regulatory System;
    • revise the Victorian Regulatory System; or
    • join a national regulatory system through a revised National Regulatory System for Community Housing Providers (NRSCH).

    Consultation approach

    Consult with a range of stakeholders including housing agencies, peak associations, the private sector, financial institutions, consumer groups, and unions on any of these matters, taking into account previous consultation at state and national level.

    Explicitly take into account the views of Aboriginal Victorians to ensure Victoria’s housing system reflects culturally safe best practices and acknowledges Closing the Gap targets on securing affordable and appropriate housing for Aboriginal Victorians.

    Membership of the Review Panel

    The Review Panel will be chaired by Professor David Hayward, with support from Dr David Cousins AM and Dr Heather Holst. The Panel will provide oversight for the delivery of the Terms of Reference, including drafting of reports and papers, and final reports to the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing.

    Primary Role

    The Review Panel members will:

    • agree on a work plan to deliver the Terms of Reference;
    • provide strategic advice regarding project scope, timing, deliverables, within agreed resources;
    • agree on appropriate stakeholder engagement and communication;
    • provide advice on review considerations and matters from time to time of other agencies of government;
    • develop draft interim and final reports for consultation with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury and Finance; and
    • provide regular updates, reports and formal advice to the Minister of Housing and Assistant Treasurer as requested.

    Term of the Review Panel

    These Terms of Reference are effective from commencement of the Review until 1 December 2021 unless extended or terminated earlier by the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing.

    [Note the term was amended to 31 March 2022]

    Meetings

    The Review Panel should meet at least monthly, or more regularly at the direction of the Chair.

    Working groups

    The Review Panel may establish other time limited ad hoc working groups as needed, with terms to be agreed by the Panel.

    Conflicts of interest

    Members of the Review Panel must:

    • complete and sign a Declaration of Conflicts of Interest;
    • verbally declare any potential conflicts of interest at the commencement of each meeting on matters pertaining to the prepared Agenda; and
    • alert the Chair of any other potential conflicts of interest that may arise during the course of a meeting.

    Where a perceived, potential or actual conflict of interest has been declared, the Chairperson shall determine how to proceed and advise the meeting accordingly.

    The nature of the conflict and action by the Chair shall be recorded in the minutes.

    Secretariat

    The Review Panel will establish a secretariat which will report to the Review Panel for day to day operational matters on the Review.

    Amendment, modification or variation

    The Review Panel’s Terms of Reference may be amended with the agreement of the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing.

    The timing and sequencing of work and deliverables and the term of the Review Panel may be affected by the COVID-19 event. The Terms of Reference can be amended by the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing should this be required.

    Context for the Review

    Government and the community housing sector in Victoria have a long and proud history of working in partnership to deliver more social housing and better outcomes for Victorians in need. More than a decade and a half of Victorian community housing regulation has contributed to a resilient, strong and diverse sector. Victoria’s registered housing sector is well governed and comprises agencies of various sizes and appetites for growth and specialties.

    Regulation has achieved what it set out to do when it was established in 2005. A stable and robust regulatory framework has been a key contributor in enabling the development of a viable Victorian social and affordable housing market. Good regulation has played a role to ensure that government had confidence in large scale investment and emerging transfers, and financiers and partnering organisations had the confidence to invest. Regulation has also been essential in ensuring quality service delivery to tenants.

    Nevertheless, in an environment of emerging investment and growth through Homes for Victorians and emerging strategies to grow social and affordable housing and provide better services for tenants, rethinking regulation going forward to support the next phases of investment is needed. Recent years have seen:

    • limited policy settings for affordable housing, especially at the national level
    • growing but inadequate funding to support steady growth of social and affordable housing
    • limited government leadership on housing matters at the national level
    • capacity shortcomings in supporting institutions within national and state/territory bureaucracies, especially policymaking, data monitoring and regulatory capabilities.

    There is a strong case for reviewing elements of regulation as part of new opportunities and challenges in the housing market, to further progress continuous improvement, and respond to changing contexts at State and Commonwealth level. Given the Government’s recent significant investment in social and community housing, it is critical that this review occurs now to ensure that current regulatory arrangements (particularly system-level risk management settings) maximise the benefits of this investment for Victorians. Good regulatory policy ensures that the social housing sector is as efficient, flexible and responsive as possible to new investment opportunities, changing housing markets and better tenant outcomes. Reviewing regulation can ensure that government, the social housing sector and investors work together effectively with minimal red tape.

    The community housing and public housing systems are subject to different regulatory and reporting requirements. The community housing sector is currently highly regulated under the Victorian Regulatory System (VRS). This requires a level of transparency from providers on their performance and operational policies. Public housing is subject to parliamentary oversight and scrutiny by bodies such as the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee and the Victorian Auditor General’s Office. It is not currently regulated under the VRS and does not routinely release financial and performance data. There is an opportunity to consider whether public housing should be regulated (and by whom) and what other measures can be taken to improve its service delivery and transparency.

    Renewed regulation can support an integrated social and affordable housing system that:

    • supplies social and affordable dwellings commensurate with the level of government, private and philanthropic investment;
    • provides the best value for money;
    • houses people meeting housing need criteria (the defined cohort);
    • provides a supply of dwellings with rents that are affordable to the defined cohort according to acceptable asset and service standards; and
    • has a focus on resident outcomes.

    A parallel issue is that Victoria (and Western Australia) have not joined the National Regulatory System for Community Housing that was established in 2014. Increasingly there is a view that community housing providers in Victoria and across Australia would benefit from standardised regulation in order to attract institutional investment and build more homes. The lack of uniform community housing regulatory arrangements may be impeding the expansion of the community housing sector and the creation of a truly national market, with consequent larger providers that can operate across borders and build more and better housing in this State.

    The Review should be cognisant of previous work undertaken by the Department of Treasury and Finance and consultation with the sector on differences between the VRS and the NRSCH in 2017, and the now completed Review of the NRSCH led by NSW.

July 2021 – Release of Consultation Paper 2 – Service delivery and tenant experience

The second public consultation paper for the Social Housing Regulation Review has now been released on the Engage Victoria platform. This paper focuses on the ‘consumer’ aspects of social housing regulation – the regulatory arrangements that influence the way services are delivered and tenants’ experiences of these.

Your submissions are requested by 17 September 2021. You can also provide input and comments to the Review directly via the Engage Victoria page.

A further consultation paper will consider the settings for system stability and accountability and is to be released in August.

More details are on the Engage Victoria page.

June 2021 – Release of Consultation Paper 1 – Social Housing in Victoria (background and scoping paper)

The first public consultation paper for the Social Housing Regulation Review has now been released on the Engage Victoria platform. This first paper provides a profile of current and prospective social housing tenants, their housing providers and the regulatory landscape, and in doing so outlines the Panel’s view of the scope of the issues to be tackled by the Review.

Your submissions are requested by 16 July 2021. You can also provide input to the Review directly via the Engage Victoria page.

Two further consultation papers will set out more specific regulatory objectives and options for consultation over the coming months.

More details are on the Engage Victoria page.

May 2021 update

The Review Team has been busy behind the scenes during the early part of 2021, building the Secretariat as well as having informal conversations with social housing providers and tenants across the state.

In March and April the team visited Bendigo, Shepparton, Wodonga, Ballarat, Moe, Morwell, Geelong and inner Melbourne. These visits have given the team a sense of the issues facing social housing tenants and providers.

During the coming months we will continue these conversations and will also request written submissions from the public in response to a number of consultation papers.

Each consultation paper will address different aspects of the Terms of Reference. Your submissions will assist the panel to identify issues and inform their recommendations.

More information about the progress of the review and specific timing of the consultation papers will be posted here. 

If you would like to get in touch with us in the meantime please email info@shrr.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 26 July 2021

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