Social and affordable housing

What is affordable housing?

A common measure of affordable housing is where people with low incomes spend 30% or less on housing costs. Otherwise households are in 'housing stress', and may be unable to meet their remaining costs such as utilities, food, education, and transport.

Based on a commitment to housing as a fundamental human right, we support the supply of affordable housing in a number of ways:
  • Land use planning procedures
  • Using assets and funds to help build affordable housing
  • Advocating to Federal and State governments to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Where can I find affordable housing?

The State Government housing website has a list of affordable housing options and is a good place to start looking. Types of affordable housing are:

Social housing (housing for people on low incomes with rents regulated by government) which includes

  • Community housing owned and managed by not for profit organisations (housing providers) and rented to low income households for around 30% of income. There are community housing properties across Victoria.
  • Public housing owned and managed by the Victorian Office of Housing. Public housing rents are around 25% of income depending on circumstances. The waiting list for public housing in Victoria is around 40,000 people. However if you are homeless, are escaping domestic violence, have a disability or special housing needs, you may get priority access
  • You can apply for social housing online or use a paper application. For more information visit, or an Office of Housing office, or you can apply through a support agency
  • Rooming Houses are privately owned and managed rental accommodation, where residents usually share facilities and have exclusive use only of their room. Standards and prices vary greatly. There is a Public Register of Rooming Houses on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
  • Private rental housing is usually listed with real estate agencies. Rents are based on location, size and quality, and are rarely affordable in Yarra and across inner Melbourne

Yarra City Council's housing policies

Yarra has developed a Housing Strategy that sets out how we plan to manage housing growth across the municipality through land use planning and functions.

A diverse population requires a diversity of housing available at prices that can be afforded by households with modest or low incomes. Diversity has been the foundation upon which our successful, sustainable and vibrant community has been built.

We have updated the Policy Guidance Note on Affordable Housing in Significant Redevelopments which articulates our expectation to negotiate at least 10% affordable housing on all rezoned sites likely to yield around 50 or more residential dwellings.

How is "affordable housing" defined?

For the purposes of the Policy Guidance Note, affordable housing is housing, including social housing, that is appropriate for the housing needs of any of the following: 

(a) very low income households, 
(b) low income households, and
(c) moderate income households. 

Council’s preference is for developers to provide fully serviced land on site, at no cost to the affordable housing provider or Council. Use of alternative mechanisms should be fully justified with evidence that this would not prejudice the level of delivery of affordable homes. 

A developer must take affordable housing provision into account when negotiating the purchase of land. It is a principle of this guidance that affordable housing is not an abnormal development cost, even in situations where public subsidy is not available.

What are you trying to achieve with this Policy Guidance Note?

We are committed to maintaining a socially and economically diverse community. Data shows a consistent and worsening shortfall of housing in Yarra that can be afforded by low incomes households, with a negligible number of properties affordable to rent and no properties affordable to purchase.

We want to see effective partnerships between community housing providers and the property development industry to deliver affordable rental housing within the municipality and encourage discussions between the property developer and/or proponent at the pre-application stage. This document is a clear statement of our preferred positions and provides certainty to the development industry.

Does this mean that all new housing developments in Yarra now have to have 10% affordable housing?

No, the Policy Guidance Note only applies to new sites with at least 50 new dwellings that have been created following rezonings. At the time of rezoning, we will seek provisions for the new zone or overlay to require any development proponent to provide for at least 10% affordable housing once constructed and into the future.

Can the proportion of affordable housing be higher than 10%?

Yes, the figure of 10% is the minimum. Some sites may be able to support a greater percentage.

Is this the only way you are supporting more affordable housing?

No. We have a long and proud tradition of advocating for the best housing outcomes for our residents and we are committed to working to increase the supply of housing suitable for households on low incomes within our municipality. We advocate to the state and federal governments to expand funding of public and social housing, as well as investing over $850,000 in programs which support and enrich the Yarra community. The funded programs will address a wide variety of local needs and promote connectedness and wellbeing across Yarra, including innovative models in delivering community housing.

A diverse population requires a diversity of housing available at prices that can be afforded by households with modest or low incomes. Diversity has been the foundation upon which our successful, sustainable and vibrant community has been built.

Other documents and initiatives related to social and community housing issues include:

  • The 2017-2021 Council Plan, under objective 1, ‘A Healthy Yarra’, which commits Council to progressing a Social and Affordable Housing Strategy and to advocating for an increase in social and affordable housing in the municipality.
  • A Housing Strategy is being developed as part of the suite of works to update the Yarra Planning Scheme. The Policy Guidance Note has being considered within this context. 
  • Inner Melbourne Action Plan (IMAP), a collaborative partnership between the Cities of Yarra, Melbourne, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Maribyrnong. The current IMAP 2016-2026 includes a goal of new affordable housing planning controls and targets, including "opt-in" Inclusionary Zoning Amendments to the Victorian Planning Provisions to enable local government to amend planning schemes to establish mandatory inclusionary zoning.

Supporting social housing

We recognise the need for affordable housing options for people with modest or low incomes. 
We have expressed our commitment to maintain and support a socially, economically and culturally diverse community. We support affordable housing in Yarra by providing funding to support to the community housing sector, pursuing affordable housing outcomes at major development sites and by advocating to state and commonwealth governments. 
From 2009 – 2012, we established the Yarra Affordable Rental Housing Development Fund as a mechanism to allocate funding ($200,000 per annum) to registered housing associations to develop affordable rental housing locally. This fund also allowed us to access then-available commonwealth and state government affordable housing growth funds (e.g. Australian Government’s Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan, etc.). 
Through this fund, Yarra Community Housing (now known as Unison) delivered 20 affordable housing units, with 15 at Gertrude Street, Fitzroy and 5 units at Flockhart Street, Abbotsford. We also granted Yarra Community Housing a 40 year lease of the council-owned building at 239 Brunswick Street to facilitate its redevelopment as community housing. This 4-storey building was transformed into 14 affordable studio-apartments. 
From 2004-2011, rates on properties owned by accredited housing associations were waived. In late 2011, this rate waiver superseded by a rate rebate of $130 per property (equivalent to the pensioner rebate). In 2013, the rate rebate was replaced by the Yarra Affordable Housing Fund (YAHF) within the broader Council Community Grants Program, with $52,000 provided annually to support local affordable housing initiatives.

Public Housing Redevelopment 

Yarra Council made a submission to the Victorian Legislative Council’s Committee for Legal and Social Issues’ Inquiry into the Public Housing Renewal Program.

The redevelopment program has been a long-term plan of the Victorian state government to renew rundown and poor standard residential buildings on and around housing estates, especially “walk-up” stock, by introducing new private housing on site with the profits generated to pay to refurbish or replace dwellings.

Our Council has a long and proud tradition of advocating for the best housing outcomes for its community and is committed to working to increase the supply of housing suitable for households on low incomes within its municipality. The redevelopment of estates is one way to renew and expand social housing but is only acceptable if done well.