A new partnership between Yarra Community Housing and RMIT will combine academic research and street smarts to improve the lives of the more than 650,000 Australians facing housing issues.
The new industry-led approach aims to address the ongoing issue of housing and homelessness in a way that looks at both the causes of homelessness, including existing failings in the housing system, and preventative measures to help alleviate disadvantage.
Michael Perusco, Yarra Community Housing CEO, said homelessness in Victoria had increased by 20 per cent between 2006 and 2011 and the recent Census data was expected to reveal even higher numbers.
“Since 2011, the number of people seeking help from homelessness services has been increasing by an average of 6 per cent a year, which is much faster than population growth.
“There is a need to look at this problem in a different way and find housing models that work now and into the future,” Perusco said.
Professor David Hayward, Dean of RMIT's School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, said part of the challenge was stopping the cycle of people coming in and out of social housing and homelessness.
“The YCH/RMIT partnership is a unique industry-academic collaboration in that the research agenda will be led by the people at the coal-face of homelessness and housing assistance,” Hayward said.
The partnership between YCH and RMIT will see the creation of the YCH Urban Homelessness and Housing program – the first of its kind in Australia.
It will be led by the country’s first Professor of Urban Homelessness and Housing with a dedicated research team.
Perusco said the academics would be imbedded in the everyday operations of YCH.
"This program isn’t about researchers coming up with solutions by themselves. This is about working with people who have lived homelessness and the people who provide services every day to develop real housing solutions for a growing number of people in need."
Hayward said that, ultimately, the partnership aimed to develop solutions that not only would halt the growth of housing insecurity and homelessness in Melbourne and Australia, but materially reduce the number of people sleeping rough and living without a place to call home in other parts of the world.
The international search for the Professor of Urban Homelessness and Housing is under way. The program is due to begin in early 2017.
Note: The figure of 650,000 includes people experiencing homelessness and low-income renters in housing stress.
Story: John Fergusson