How governments can help struggling Australians with rising housing costs – Melbourne

All Australians are spending more of their incomes on housing, but worsening affordability is hurting low-income earners the most. Almost half of low-income Australians in the private rental market suffer rental stress. So homelessness is rising.

There is a powerful case for additional government support to help Australia’s most disadvantaged cope with high housing costs. But not all policies are equally effective. So what should the next Federal Government do to tackle these challenges? And how can the states help?

In this Policy Pitch event at the State Library of Victoria, Council of Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith, Residential Tenancies in Victoria inaugural Commissioner Dr Heather Holst and Grattan Institute Fellow Brendan Coates discussed the best way to help low-income earners deal with rising housing costs and reduce the number of Australians who are homelessness.


Dr Heather Holst is the inaugural Commissioner for Residential Tenancies in Victoria. She has almost 30 years of experience working in the housing, tenancy and homelessness sectors and is a strong champion for the rights of Victorian tenants. She has worked in Melbourne and regional Victoria in a wide range of roles, with community based homelessness and housing organisations, as a housing consultant to local councils and at the Tenants Union of Victoria. Before becoming the Commissioner, she was Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer of Launch Housing. During her time at Launch Housing, Dr Holst developed a range of housing projects and rough sleeping solutions and appeared at the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Dr Holst also led a Department of Human Services Victoria team working on homelessness policy, including Victoria’s response to the Commonwealth Government’s White Paper on Homelessness.

Jenny Smith has dedicated her  professional life to the public sector. Jenny began her career as a social worker & family therapist, followed by thirty years in leadership and management roles in policy, management, government, in training and service delivery, and in health, mental health, community health and community sectors.  Jenny also has considerable experience as a Board director of community sector agencies and she is currently Chair of Homelessness Australia. Jenny is passionate about applying her skills and experience to ending homelessness, working in partnership with those who have experienced homelessness, the specialist homelessness sector, community sector, government, philanthropic and private sectors.

Brendan Coates is the Australian Perspectives Fellow at Grattan Institute. His research focuses on tax reform, economic and budget policy, retirement incomes and superannuation, housing, transport infrastructure and cities. Before Grattan, Brendan worked as a macro-financial economist with the World Bank in Indonesia and Latin America, and prior to that, he undertook a number of roles with the Australian Treasury, including as part of the Treasury’s China Policy Unit. Brendan holds a Masters of International Development Economics from the Australian National University and Bachelors of Commerce and Arts from the University of Melbourne.


Peter Mares is the author of No Place Like Home: Repairing Australia’s Housing Crisis published last year by Text. Peter is lead moderator with The Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to developing the ethical decision-making skills of Australia’s leaders, an adjunct fellow in the Centre for Urban Transitions at Swinburne University and a regular contributor to Inside Story magazine. Previously Peter worked for 25 years as a journalist and broadcaster with the ABC.