Jesuit Social Services recently contributed a submission to the Inquiry into the Protections within the Victorian Planning Framework.

Our submission is based on our decades of experience working with people who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness, housing instability and housing stress, inappropriate or unsafe housing, as well as other forms of disadvantage. Through our work, we also witness how these populations are often most affected by ecological risks and threats, and least responsible for them.

Without concerted action now to build an ecologically just society, the significant disadvantage experienced by communities facing housing and environmental insecurity will only compound.

Our submission focuses on how Victoria’s Planning Framework, including the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic), can prioritise the needs of people experiencing vulnerability, with a focus on environmental sustainability and vegetation protection, and the provision of social housing.

Summary of our recommendations

On environmental sustainability and vegetation protection:

  • Recognise and address the interconnection between social and ecological inequities and disadvantage that sees the most disadvantaged communities most exposed to climate change risks and impacts.
  • Safeguard and develop green and open spaces that are safe, accessible and strengthen biodiversity outcomes, with a particular focus on locations that experience entrenched disadvantage.
  • Pursue legislative reform that includes changes to the Planning and Environment Act 2017 so that it aligns with the Climate Change Act 2017 (Vic) and ensures that relevant decisions made under Victoria’s Planning Framework mitigate climate change and the inequitable impacts of climate change.

On the provision of social housing:

  • Incorporate greater protections to ensure that both Local and State Government deliver an adequate supply and development of affordable public housing.
  • Play a greater role in encouraging integration of housing with specific initiatives targeted to people with complex, multiple and intensive long-term support needs.
  • Treat young people as a priority cohort in relation to the provision of social housing, to prevent a clearly identified pathway into longer-term homelessness.
  • Include provisions to ensure that current and future public and social housing is safe, sustainable, climate-resilient and energy-efficient.