Identify & raise awareness of housing and homelessness issues. Co-ordinated local response to housing and homelessness issues

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1 (CHHN) Cairns Housing and Homelessness Network The Cairns Housing and Homelessness Network (CHHN) aims to provide a forum for local organisations and stakeholders to work together to deliver co-ordinated, effective and innovative responses to issues of Housing and Homelessness. Goal: To achieve housing justice for all people in Cairns Outcomes: Identify & raise awareness of housing and homelessness issues Co-ordinated local response to housing and homelessness issues Engage the community in housing and homelessness network issues Provide for enhanced cross sectoral relationships Advocacy for positive change for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness Improve the capacity of services available for vulnerable people Raise the profile of the Cairns Housing and Homelessness Network as a representative body. Theme 1: Sustainable Communities Q1. How do we create an environment that enables a Human Services approach to Housing that puts people at the centre in Queensland? The CHHN believes that any approach to housing in Far North Queensland requires a holistic and coordinated approach that acknowledges the unique situation in the region. Social determinants of health and wellbeing must be considered within the local social, economic and geographic context. In particular: the high population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people that access housing and homelessness services in the Far North; the significant lack of affordable housing in the region, including a lack of appropriate housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families; 1

2 high rates of homelessness among ex-offenders and those leaving other institutional environments; high proportion of overcrowding within homelessness data; high rates of mental health problems; and the impact on housing and homelessness services in Cairns, being the central services hub for the whole of the Far North including the Cape York Peninsula and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities such as Aurukun and Yarrabah. Considering these factors, self-determination and a focus on culturally appropriate strength based methodologies must be a central theme of any strategy. The network believes strongly in evidenced, place based approaches to developing solutions and building social capital for optimal long term results. Human Services approaches must incorporate and work collaboratively with the existing housing, homelessness and community services networks and current coordination mechanisms (i.e., Cairns Housing and Homelessness Network; Case Coordination Working Group; Northern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Alliance; Cairns Alliance of Social Services; Regional Homelessness Taskforce etc). Q2. What do the DHPW and other Service partners need to do to operate more effectively as a human service providers? The CHHN notes a need for: Interdepartmental committees that bring together relevant government departments to address the silo operations of these entities and create coordinated plans and mechanisms in partnership with the housing and homelessness sector (e.g., bringing together key stakeholders from the Department of Housing and Public Works, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services; Queensland Health; the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships etc.); 5 year Funding Agreements for stability and sustainability for continuity of quality service delivery. Bipartisan agreement on Housing and Homelessness Policy that reflects the placed based needs of regional, remote and rural communities A commitment of financial and administrative resources for coordination initiatives such as the Regional Networks ie: CHHN within the housing and homelessness sector; Transparent communication processes between the Department of Housing and Public Works and the Housing and Homelessness sector; and Far North regional representation on the Ministerial Housing Consultative Committee. People who rely on social housing are often labelled as vulnerable, high and complex tenants, rather than viewing all citizens as worthy contributors to social capital within our communities. The network believes that there needs to be further commitment toward 2

3 promoting positive images and profiles of social housing as a key strategy for building social capital. The network acknowledges the important role of strong healthy communities in developing social capital. Strong, healthy communities are where collaborative and placebased approaches revitalize low-income communities and improve health and wellbeing. In specific relation to the delivery of specialist homelessness services, the network supports the following: Integrated data systems Supporting partnerships and collaborative approaches to solving local issues Capacity to be more flexible enabling providers to develop and deliver innovative support models that are responsive solutions to local needs Q3 How can we maximise the contribution of housing to social and economic development and environmental outcomes in Queensland? What are the key issues we need to work on together? Far North Queensland has particular local social, economic and geographic characteristics that require considered place based responses. Housing (both supply and demand factors) is critical in the development of local economies. An adequate supply of housing that is both appropriate and affordable is essential to building the strength of local industry and community. The CHHN believes that any new development must consider the need for affordable housing within their planning processes (this includes mandating within zoning schemes). This may include mixed housing solutions where social and affordable housing are combined in developments and the needs of tenants and owners are matched to the type, configuration and infrastructure requirements. Examine zoning rules, development requirements and the possibility of smaller house blocks being introduced to allow for more affordable housing. The CHHN believe that it is critical that the State Government build stronger partnerships with Local Government to develop and design alternative affordable housing strategies. The CHHN believes that local factors strongly support the development of eco design features within new housing and retrofitting for energy efficiency and affordability. The network believes that housing models informed by cultural considerations, the local environment and geography are critical. Q4 What are the opportunities for the non-government sector (private and community) to achieve better outcomes for people and communities through housing? The non-government sector is ideally placed to work in partnership with government and private sector to design, develop and trial innovative, place based housing models and initiatives that provide optimal outcomes for our community. The non-government sector is 3

4 flexible and responsive to local needs and understands the issues that impact on housing and homelessness in our region. This will require increased funding and flexible funding models that enable services to develop evidenced place based solutions. Strict funding models, particularly those designed for delivery in South East Queensland cannot be replicated to contexts such as the Far North where geographic remoteness, cultural considerations and climate are key features of our landscape. Q5 Do existing legislative frameworks provide the right level of protections for housing consumers and how could they be improved to ensure fairer and more equitable access to housing? CHHN supports the concept of Housing being a human service and that people should be at the core of decision making. CHHN has been able to, over a long period of time, ensure integration and collaboration on issues that impact on the sector. It strongly supports engagement with tenants, the services that engage with them and those seeking housing and support services. CHHN supports legislative frameworks that assist people to stay in housing and receive the support they need to ensure housing stability. Q6 Are there differences in issues and approaches for housing that need to be considered in Rural, remote and regional communities? The CHHN believes there are very clear differences in the design, development and delivery of housing and homelessness services in rural, remote and regional communities. There is also difference between and within these communities. That is, one model designed for one regional area is not necessarily a good fit in another. Models that have an increased rate of success are developed with the local service system and in partnership with local communities. Such models in Far North Queensland should address: the needs of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, recognising diversity within this community; geographic factors (including how services are delivered in the Cape and Torres Strait Islands and the role Cairns plays as a regional hub for health, employment, education, training and housing); and Environmental issues (e.g., susceptibility to natural disaster and climate factors). Responding to the uniqueness of Far North Queensland requires addressing issues such as: Overcrowding; Family relationships between people from Cape York and Torres regions influencing movement; Breakdowns and/or conflict within remote communities; The need to have appropriately designed housing (that considers both size, location and use); 4

5 Need for housing to be well serviced by public transport (particularly considering rain and heat in the Wet Season); Arrival of new people to Cairns and impact migration patterns have on housing provision (people coming from both South and North); and Public space dwelling. 5

6 Theme 2: Housing Affordability Q7. How can we improve people s access to housing by making better use of existing assets, subsidies and incentives? For example, incentivising the market and nongovernment sector to respond to people and communities. The CHHN believes that land release is a key strategy in enabling the construction of appropriately designed new properties. Land release can enable public private partnerships and innovative development initiatives that include a mandated provision of affordable housing. Housing solutions need to be tied to longer term outcomes, including funding arrangements that allow for strategic planning rather than constant uncertainty around funding decisions. Programs such as NRAS provided incentives for the private sector to work with the government and non-government sectors to increase the supply and affordability of housing. The CHHN also believes that housing stress can be alleviated further by the provision of rent/buy schemes that enable renters in social housing to purchase their property over time; and government support to low interest loans (e.g., Indigenous First Home Buyers loans). Q8 How can we improve housing affordability, through sustainable housing practices such as energy efficient designs and other initiatives? The CHHN believes that any new social housing must be designed sustainably, consider energy efficient designs and place based factors (e.g., climate, location and cultural issues). Far North Queensland s unique location means that ecological design features (i.e., solar, water saving, insulation) must be critical considerations. Where possible existing properties should be retrofitted for energy efficiency and affordability. Q9 What are the benefits of creating an affordable rental sector? What needs to happen for that to be successful? The CHHN believes that an affordable rental sector is critical to people s mental health and wellbeing, strong families, strong communities and flourishing local economies. Far North Queensland has one of the highest rates of social welfare recipients in Australia, low rental vacancy rates and low levels of housing affordability. Vulnerable people within the private rental sector are often subject to TICA listing (black listing), discriminatory practices of real estate agents and are priced out of the market. In addition to the above current research indicates that the average adult on Newstart payments lives well below the poverty line and are completely excluded from the private rental market (this issue is even more acute for those on Youth Allowance). At risk individuals and families in Far North Queensland require support to move into the private rental market and help to sustain their tenancies. This support requires adequate funding and negotiation with local service providers to assess current priority needs. Q 10 How should the department work with its partners to extend the supply of social housing? For example, renewal of the existing social housing portfolio and financing and developing new supply. 6

7 Transfer public housing stock to the community sector so that greater support can be provided to tenants and their families and the focus for being a human service can be realised. Integration and collaboration of services. DHPW to sell off old, inappropriate stock and use funds to revitalise or replace existing social housing. Working with all levels of government to ensure the best utilisation of crown land, local government planning and available resources. Whole of government approach so that health, community services, treasury etc work together to ensure people are not placed in hospitals because there is no suitable housing or that people with a disability can have fully accessible properties. Allow community housing companies to utilise surplus funds to enhance and grow the social housing stock. Q 11 What is the role of community housing providers in delivering people-centred services, responding to local needs, and growing supply through potential housing transfers in the future? Responsibility of community housing providers to ensure a collaborative, integrated service that is client focussed and provides the support and advice to ensure sustainability of housing. Change the model so that transitional and long term housing fully responds to the ability of tenants to transition to the private sector. People who have high or very high needs are often not able to transition to private housing solutions after 12 months and if so, may require ongoing support to do so. On the contrary, residents of long term housing may be able to transition yet their criteria for needs assessment limits this occurrence. Community Housing providers could be funded to provide a range of services, not just tenancy management. Knowing and identifying local issues and specific needs (such as larger families, changing economic circumstances, youth issues etc) so that housing stock can match these unique requirements. Q 12 What is the role of local governments in housing affordability and how can the state better support this? For example, if we provided incentives, or implemented inclusionary zoning for affordable housing at a local government level, where would you see this working and what would it deliver? The CHHN believes that all levels of government have a role to play in addressing housing and homelessness issues in our community. This must include local government and the CHHN sees some clear opportunities for their involvement. This involvement should include: regular participation by the Cairns Regional Council in key housing and homelessness networks; active support and participation in housing and homelessness events (e.g., 7

8 Homelessness Week, Youth Week etc.); Cairns Regional Council to develop a housing and homelessness policy (that addresses issues such as public space; development approvals and zoning; rates incentives that address housing and homelessness); support to the broader sector (both government and non-government) in relation to crisis housing issues (i.e., caravan park closures, boarding houses regulation etc.) Theme 3: Responsive Housing System Q 13 What should be the roles and relationship of government and the nongovernment sector in the delivery of homelessness and housing assistance in the future? The CHHN believes that government needs to adequately fund, listen and partner with the non-government sector in the design and delivery of housing and homelessness services. Government has a clear role in funding the non-government sector to undertake key programs and initiatives. The State government must play a role in supporting the sector when advocating to the Federal government for continued or increased levels of funding. All levels of government need to listen to the non-government sector as they design and deliver services. As indicated earlier, this must include meaningful consultation at a local level and incorporate feedback into the design and delivery of services. The CHHN believes that partnering with government will provide the best outcomes for vulnerable people and communities. Again, these partnerships must be genuine, place based and evidenced responses that are supported with both human and physical resources (i.e., there must be funding to engage in collaboration and integration initiatives). The CHHN believes that whilst there are considerable strengths within the local service system and a strong willingness to work collaboratively this must be supported by government. Failure to support collaboration and integration will negatively impact the social capital within our networks and risks leaving practitioners burnt out and unwilling to engage in future partnership efforts. Q14 How do we better develop and integrate the housing and homelessness service systems so they operate as one housing assistance system centred on peoples needs and what is required to make this happen? The CHHN recognises considerable strengths between our local service system and key government partners. That said, there are a number of important areas that require improvement in order to better meet the needs of vulnerable people within our community. These include: government funding bodies to develop more contemporary and culturally appropriate processes that support housing and homelessness organisations local and system level innovation, partnership and integrated/coordinated efforts (including efforts to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations); dedicated resources and support from government for the additional time, human, physical and financial costs (currently borne by housing and homelessness organisations), of creating and maintaining an integrated and innovative housing and homelessness service system; 8

9 ending the practice of expecting organisations to undertake quality and effective work in the area of coordination and integration with the same or decreased levels of funding and an under-resourced system of essential complimentary services (such as drug and alcohol services, culturally appropriate mental health services, youth services and affordable housing stock); relevant government departments to develop coordinated mechanisms between key departments; decisions on community needs are place based and made by regions or after obtaining regional input and responses; work collaboratively with the service sector to develop new and support existing innovative efforts to address the highly complex issue of homelessness within an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander context. Government directives to organisations to work more collaboratively and in partnership with each other, while also implementing a competitive funding approach, does not support the notion of a coordinated and integrated service system. In addition, the inability of governments own departments to work collaboratively together and design mechanisms that promote clear, transparent and accurate information for all, is a significant impediment to any coordinated efforts. Approaches and policies that incentivise collaborative and partnership efforts (between government departments, between government departments and services, and between housing and homelessness services) needs to be further investigated. Q15 How do we best support collaborative regional and local place-based initiatives? For example, how do we make best use of our collective limited resources to achieve outcomes for people? The CHHN believes that evidenced, place-based solutions are critical to realising success in combating complex social issues such as homelessness within a regional setting. Furthermore, ensuring that these initiatives are locally driven and owned through collaborative design and development and appropriately funded increases the likelihood of a real reduction in the numbers of homeless people and an increase in sustainable long-term tenancies. Investment in research and evaluation of existing and future efforts must form a key role in these solutions in order to accurately and effectively guide initiatives that work. Funding short-term, limited one-off projects that do not feed into further, longer-term funding to pursue recommended solutions, degrades social cohesion and predisposes the sector to further fragmentation, particular when these initiatives secure wide support from the service sector only to then end when funding runs out. Currently there is a significant lack of such commitment within the Far North region and while the housing and homelessness sector have a proven track record of supporting innovative, placed-based solutions, government has yet to provide meaningful support for these efforts. 9

10 Q16 How can government support innovation in the development of mechanisms that increase the finance, resources and investment available for homelessness and housing assistance? Whilst the CHHN supports the development of innovative responses, particularly those that leverage off philanthropic and private investment, it does not support government reducing their commitment via use of such schemes. The CHHN urges government to consider international models (and not just those implemented in countries whereby there are ongoing efforts to transfer government responsibility to the private sector i.e. New Zealand and the United Kingdom). Community Housing to use their surplus funds to purchase additional housing, engage in innovative and client-focussed models that create positive housing outcomes. 10

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