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New Urban Levers to Address Homelessness

Street art in a Melbourne laneway illustrates the current homelessness crisis. Image: Fernando de Sousa/flickr

Melbourne’s homelessness problem is clearly worsening.  Consequences include rising community concern, some social conflict and a wide scale deterioration in the well-being of vulnerable people, especially city sleepers.  There is increasing evidence of overload on the support sector.  Although homelessness has a complex causality, a number of intensifying development trends are escalating the problem, including the redevelopment of sites that have long provided last resort housing for the vulnerable (especially but not only boarding houses and caravan parks).  Other trends contributing to the problem include the rapid growth of CBD student accommodation to the exclusion of other forms and new regulatory standards that constrain ‘bottom of market’ housing provision.

Evidence from other jurisdictions and from the historical policy record suggest that there are new urban interventions that could be deployed to address, if not solve, the crisis.  These lie in the areas of capital financing, repurposing of surplus government assets, planning policies for inclusionary housing, and improved state coordination of cross sectoral response. 

What new urban levers can the Victorian state rapidly deploy to address Melbourne's homelessness crisis?

One question to be asked is how can the State better deploy the agencies it has already set up to deal with low income housing (Victoria’s Housing Associations) to rapidly respond to escalating need in last resort housing crisis?  Or is there a case for a special purpose agency to target provision of last resort housing?

This study is an initiative of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne.  MSSI has recruited several partners to the project, each of which will bring significant pro-bono resources to the table.  The principal partner for the project is SGS Economics & Planning Pty Ltd (bringing expertise in housing need assessment and business case development).


Read our latest report: The case for investing in last resort housing, published 16 March 2017
Our report released found that it’s cheaper to provide last resort housing to homeless people than to leave them sleeping rough. Governments and society would benefit more than they spend by providing last resort housing to homeless individuals. This is mainly through reduced healthcare costs, reduced crime, and helping people get back into employment or education.




Aims and activities

This study will measure and document the scale and geography of the growing homelessness problem in metropolitan Melbourne.  It will outline new urban fiscal and policy mechanisms that could be rapidly deployed by the State of Victoria (including in partnership with other bodies) to arrest the problem and stimulate the long term provision of last resort housing in Melbourne.  The focus is on urban levers presently not deployed (or insufficiently deployed).  It is recognised that the complex problem of homelessness necessitates a cross sectoral responses that lie outside the scope of the study (health, youth and family support, employment, policing etc.).



   The rise of homelessness in the world's most liveable city


Prof Brendan Gleeson
Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Prof Carolyn Whitzman
Melbourne Social Equity Institute

Robert Pradolin
Property Developer

Michael Lennon
Housing Choices Australia

Rob McGauran
MGS Architects

Dr Heather Holst
Launch Housing

Marcus Spiller
SGS Economics & Planning



Prof Brendan Gleeson
Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Marcus Spiller
SGS Economics & Planning

Patrick Fensham
SGS Economics & Planning

Ellen Witte
SGS Economics & Planning