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Social Housing Complaint Handling - Progress Report, Victorian Ombudsman


Foreword

Nearly two years ago, I tabled a lengthy report into Victoria’s social housing complaint system. I described it as complicated, confusing and under-resourced, to the point where some of the most disadvantaged people in our society felt their health and safety were at risk.

I acknowledged the Victorian Government is making a substantial capital investment in social housing, the impact of which will be years in the making. I said a tiny percentage of that investment, in good complaint handling, would reap huge rewards far sooner, for renters, social housing providers and the Government alike.

But while the responsible Department and the Housing Registrar took action to address the recommendations made to them, the major recommendations were for Government. Letters to a succession of responsible Ministers went unanswered, until a draft of this report elicited the response that the recommendations remain ‘under active consideration’.

Meanwhile, social housing complaints to the Ombudsman have risen 83 per cent over the past two years.
The systemic issues are not going away. Change is now even more critical, as Victorians grapple with dual housing and cost-of-living crises, increasing homelessness and an evolving social housing landscape, including the looming redevelopment of public housing towers.

People consulted in the preparation of this report universally expressed support for the yet-unfulfilled recommendations. They stressed the urgent need for these reforms in the current housing climate.
There was particularly strong support for the recommendation for a Social Housing Ombudsman, which I noted in 2022 could be established quickly and cheaply within the Victorian Ombudsman’s office. Our office’s conciliation team has already successfully resolved many complex social housing disputes.
Like a Royal Commission, I cannot enforce my recommendations. Unlike a Royal Commission, I can monitor and table a follow-up report. So I am doing so. I acknowledge social housing issues are complicated and inter-related. But the complaints issue can be fixed, and the time is now.

Deborah Glass
Ombudsman

 
At Taskforce Australia we care about the wellbeing, safety and happiness of the people and communities around us. We will continue to follow the updates of this report with interest.

Click here to find out more about Taskforce HousingSolutions, designed specifically to address the unique challenges within the community housing sector.
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