There are now more than 25,000 homeless Victorians, and almost half of them are women. 82,000 people (including 24,000 kids) are on the wait-list for social housing in Victoria. It’s more important than ever to keep people in safe, affordable housing.
Dear Landlord offers interactive self-help tools to tenants facing housing insecurity. It helps them take steps earlier and avoid eviction for falling behind in rent.
These specialised tools complement Justice Connect’s existing intensive services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Our Homeless Law team provides holistic and ongoing legal, social work and human rights support to the most vulnerable Victorians. We do this by partnering with over 450 pro bono lawyers, as well as community-based homelessness and health services, but we know that we can’t help everyone.
Affordable housing in Victoria is almost impossible to find. Anglicare’s 2019 rental affordability snapshot found that only 0.1% of properties across Victoria were affordable for a single parent on Centrelink. None of these properties were in metropolitan Melbourne. Over five years of our Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project (WHPP), we’ve seen that financial insecurity is the main reason women and their children are on the brink of eviction, particularly in private rentals. Dear Landlord draws on our learnings from the WHPP, addressing the fact that too many preventable evictions into homelessness happen in Victoria because of rental arrears.
Dear Landlord scales our reach and builds confidence in tenants who are able to self-help. It also connects tenants with more complex needs to our existing services. That includes civil and criminal legal representation and social work assistance, as well as other appropriate financial, housing and community supports.
We’ve launched Dear Landlord’s new self-help tool hub for individuals.
Dear Landlord’s suite of self-help tools includes an explanatory video, flowchart, letter writer and key resources list. We made these tools to improve understanding of the often complex eviction process.
For tenants with higher needs or complex legal issues, Dear Landlord will be a pathway into Homeless Law’s intensive services, including ongoing civil and criminal legal representation and social work support.
We’ve spent 18 years delivering targeted services to homeless or at risk Victorians. We’ve learnt the value of hearing directly from people with lived experience to shape and deliver impactful legal help.
Justice Connect held user-centred design workshops with people with lived experience of homelessness or risk of homelessness
These workshops have been crucial to our understanding of where people would turn for help, and the types of online resources that they would have found helpful when faced with losing their home. Participants wanted to know their rights as tenants, but generally participants didn’t view eviction as a legal issue. Instead, they viewed it as a financial or housing problem.
“The law is the law, you’ve got rights. It doesn’t matter what they [the landlord] care about, you’ve got to fight for you.” – Workshop participant
Through this feedback, we seek to equip people facing housing insecurity with an overview of the eviction process. So tenants can understand their rights, and are empowered to make an informed choice about how they want to proceed.
From August 2019, we will be rolling-out Dear Landlord’s education and engagement campaign. Our focus is on women and their children facing housing insecurity. This will raise awareness of tenancy rights, and promote the use of Dear Landlord by tenants and community workers, so that they act earlier in spotting – and taking steps to avoid – the risk of eviction for rental arrears.
As we continue to iterate Dear Landlord, we aim to work closely with landlords and real estate agents, offering the self-help tools as a more constructive way for them to engage with tenants who may be falling behind in rent. We want to promote the tools to these key groups to foster cultural and behavioural change, reducing housing insecurity and avoiding evictions into homelessness.
If you’d like to participate in our education program or test the tool with your clients, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re grateful to the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for its visionary and generous support of Dear Landlord.
We’d like to thank the following partners for their contribution to Dear Landlord: Allens, Neota Logic, University of Technology Sydney, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Fitted for Work, Launch Housing, Sacred Heart Mission, Herbert Smith Freehills, City of Melbourne and Yarra City Council. We also recognise expert consultant Jo Sczcepanska, Tiger Pistol and graphic designer Celeste Potter for their roles in developing the current iterations of the self-help tools.
We particularly acknowledge the people with lived experience of housing insecurity and homelessness who shared direct insights. Their insight brought to life Dear Landlord, and we thank them for their contributions.