Housing costs trapping women in domestic violence

Family violence is under-reported in migrant communities, say support workers.

Family violence is under-reported in migrant communities, say support workers.

The lack of affordable housing in Victoria is keeping women trapped in brutal domestic situations and increasing their risk of homelessness, leading agencies say.

And with reports of domestic violence rising, and housing becoming more unaffordable for low-income earners, agencies fear the problem will only get worse.

Less than 0.1 per cent of rental properties advertised in metropolitan Melbourne last month were affordable and appropriate for a single mother of two children who relies on a parenting pension, according to Anglicare.

Meanwhile, almost half the 60,454 women who sought help from homelessness services in the state in 2013-14 blamed domestic violence for their predicament.

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A joint submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence signed by seven housing, legal, community and domestic violence organisations has recommended the state government pour an immediate $223.4 million every year into urgent reforms to help stem the increasing tide of family violence.

This money, it says, could help thousands of families and build 800 homes for women and children fleeing violent homes.

"Victoria's shortage of affordable housing deters victims from leaving violent relationships, pushes victims into homelessness [and] can make perpetrators more isolated and increase the risk of repeated or escalated violence," the groups say.

Figures from the Department of Human Services show that just three out of every 100 two-bedroom rental lettings in the December 2014 quarter were affordable for a single parent whose sole income was Centrelink.

Government housing is also unattainable for many. In March, there were 33,933 people on the Victorian public housing waiting list, with 9556 eligible for "early" urgent housing, which includes many who have suffered family violence.

Justice Connect homeless law manager Lucy Adams said: "The links between family violence, affordable housing and homelessness are multiple. It [family violence] is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Victoria. The shortage of affordable housing in Victoria is quite acute."

"It acts as a deterrent or a disincentive to leaving if you're not going to have a safe roof over your head."

The submission has been signed by Justice Connect, Domestic Violence Victoria, the Victorian Council of Social Service, Council to Homeless Persons, Victorian Public Tenants Association, Tenants Union of Victoria and Community Housing Federation of Victoria. 

It calls for:

  • $13.4 million a year to bolster womens' ability to stay in their own homes, including legal representation for women facing eviction and private rental brokerage schemes. It says this could help 3800 families.
  • $10 million a year for a "rapid re-housing program" to help more house than 1000 women and their children fleeing violence.
  • Improving access to affordable housing for the perpetrators of family violence, to make sure they stay engaged with support services, to help prevent the risk of further violence.
  • $300 million a year to develop a long-term affordable housing strategy to address the soaring public housing waitlist and increasing unaffordability of private rental for low-income Victorians. This could build 800 new homes for vulnerable Victorians.

Submissions to the family violence royal commission are due by May 29, and hearings will begin on July 13.