Function VF 174
Housing, public
About this Function Related Agencies Related Groups
Is this the right Function?Is this the right Function?
  • Use this Function for
    Slum reclamation
    Public housing for persons of limited means
    Prescribing of minimum standards of housing
    Erection of houses
    Improvement of existing housing conditions
    Construction and management of large estates
    Community-managed housing
    Financial assistance to home buyers
    Rental accommodation.

  • Do not use this Function for
    Urban renewal
    Urban land development
    Cooperative societies
    Housing, public (aborigines)
    Building societies, regulation of

Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function

The first inquiry into the condition of housing in Victoria was conducted in 1913 by a Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly. A report entitled Housing of the People in the Metropolis was subsequently published noting that the housing of the people in portions of the metropolis is most disgraceful andare a menace to the health and community at large. (Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board, First (Progress) Report, October 1937, pp.40-1)

Over twenty years later in 1936 and 1937, there were small housing projects of an experimental nature in Port Melbourne and South Melbourne. The former was a State housing project while the latter was supervised by the South Melbourne City Council.(ibid p.41)

However it was not until 1937, with the formation of the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board, that there was a coordinated attempt at dealing with the urgent necessity for measures to abate the slum menace. Extensive investigations into housing conditions generally throughout the State and particularly within Melbournes metropolitan area were conducted. The Boards report was such an indictment of the conditions under which a large section of the community was condemned to live, especially in the metropolitan area, that the Government immediately introduced a Housing Bill which was passed by Parliament in December 1937. The Act authorised the establishment of the Housing Commission.

The Establishment of the Housing Commission

The Commission was appointed by the Government in March 1938 as a state run housing authority. The Commissions early activity was devoted to making recommendations for proposed legislation relating to slum clearance and re housing. Recommendations resulted in the Government proceeding a step further in its policy of housing reform with the passing, in the next session of Parliament (October 1938), of the Slum Reclamation and Housing Bill.

The Housing Act 1937 and the Slum Reclamation and Housing Act 1938 established principles outlining the operations of the Commission. The main ones being:

The reclamation of insanitary housing areas.
The prescribing of minimum standards with which new houses must comply.
The improvement of existing housing conditions.
The carrying into effect of housing schemes including the
-acquisition of lands and
-construction of houses
The provision of homes for persons of limited means.
Rent regulation
Zoning- (dividing municipal districts into residential and other areas).

From this early period until the 1970s emphasis was placed on clearing slum areas and re-housing people of limited means at the cheapest cost. However, the founding of the Housing Commission coincided with the onset of World War II. War conditions and the shortage of materials and manpower meant that the provision of public housing was slowed to a halt.

Appointment of the Chairman of the Housing Commission

The Slum Reclamation and Housing Act 1938 provided for the appointment of three full time members of the Housing Commission, by the Governor in Council. Of the three members of the Commission one was appointed Director of Housing and Chairman of the Commission. All other staff were employed under the Public Service Act.

The Commission reported to the Treasurer (VRG 23) until 1945 when the first Minister of Housing (VRG 53) was appointed. Although the Commission was thereafter responsible to the Minister of Housing it remained administratively within the Treasury until 1973 when it became part of the new Ministry of Housing (VA 609) established under the Housing Ministry Act 1972.


Immediately after the War there was a huge demand for public housing. Houses were required in large numbers as quickly as possible to house those returning to civilian life and to catch up on the lag of construction over the war years. From 1945 funding was provided for public housing under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. This funding allowed for the Commission to build large estates of public housing (houses, units and multi-storey flats) in cleared areas in the inner region and in undeveloped areas on the outskirts of Melbourne. In 1946 the Commission set up a mass production program of prefabricated concrete houses at Homesglen.

In this period the first significant change to the public housing function occurred with the passing of the Housing Act 1943. This Act provided for eligible persons (persons of limited means who had been tenants of Housing Commission homes for three years), to purchase their home with a portion of their rental payments to be considered as a deposit. (Victorian Parliamentary Papers, Session 1942-3, Volume 213, pp.1219-1220) Eligible people were further allowed to purchase land and consequently erect a house.

The Widening of the Powers of the Housing Commission

In an effort to limit the inconvenience and to inculcate a community spirit, the Housing Act 1953 widened the powers of the Commission to enable it to cope with the planning requirements of large estates. It was able to erect shops, schools, halls and such other buildings that were deemed necessary in public housing settlements. (Victorian Parliamentary Debates, Session 1952-53, Volume 242, p. 2052) The Commission was given additional powers to carry out road making and the installation of sewerage, electricity and gas supplies. The Act further granted the Commission certain powers relating to planning in association with municipal authorities.

The Housing (Broadmeadows) Act 1956 expanded the Commissions powers in creating zones for specific purposes. The Commission was able to sell land to enterprises for the erection of industrial buildings so as to provide opportunities of employment for at least a portion of the residents housed in the nearby public housing estate.

During this period the decision to concentrate on slum reclamation work was made once again. (Housing Commission, Annual Report, 1971)

Consolidation of Public Housing Legislation 1958

In 1958, previous legislation concerning public housing was consolidated in the Housing Act 1958. The Housing Commission continued to be responsible for the administration of all aspects of the public housing function.

Aboriginal Public Housing

The Aborigines (Houses) Act 1959 provided for the Housing Commission to enter into contracts to build houses for Aborigines on behalf of the Aborigines Welfare Board. This responsibility passed to the Ministry for Aboriginal Affairs (VA 2873) in 1968. In 1975 the Commission resumed responsibility for housing for Aborigines when the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs was abolished.

Transfer of functions to the Ministry of Housing 1972-1983

By the 1970s many statutory housing bodies had been established. The Housing Ministry Act 1972 established a Ministry of Housing to coordinate the activities of the government in the housing field. The Ministry of Housing took over from the Commission responsibility for central coordination of the public housing function. The Ministry assumed responsibility for:

The improvement of housing conditions.
The provision of adequate and suitable houses for letting or purchase to persons of limited means or living under unsatisfactory housing conditions.
The coordination of the supply and renewal of public housing
Assisting in the provision of finance for persons building, purchasing or renovating houses.

The Housing Commission continued to exist as a statutory authority, responsible for the following aspects of the housing function until it was abolished in 1983:
The Ministrys purchase and construction program
The allocation of housing funds
General tenancy arrangements
House sales

However, implementation of policy was undertaken by the Ministry.

From the 1970s the emphasis of the public housing function shifted from slum clearance to providing financial assistance and information to home buyers and renovators. Managing housing assistance programmes, community managed housing and rental were also priorities of those managing the public housing functions.

Housing (Amendment) Act 1978

In 1977 the Government appointed management consultants to review the senior management organisation of the Ministry of Housing and its constituent agencies. As a result of this report the Housing Ministry Act 1972 was repealed and the Housing Act 1958 amended by the Housing (Amendment) Act 1978 to provide for a reconstituted Ministry of Housing consisting of a Minister of Housing, Director of Housing and other officers as necessary.

The legislation also established a Housing Advisory Council:

To advise the Minister on matters affecting housing in the or public sector
To investigate any matters affecting housing
To consult with the housing industry

The council consisted of the Director of Housing and six part-time members appointed by the Minister.

Housing Act 1983

As the previous housing acts were deemed to contain many provisions that were archaic or unnecessarily detailed and restrictive, the Housing Act 1983 was proclaimed. (Victorian Parliamentary Papers, Session 1983, Volume 366, Assembly, pp.1017-8). These legislative changes put increased emphasis on cost effectiveness and public accountability as well as growing involvement of the community in management and decision making.

The Act abolished the Housing Commission, the Housing Advisory Council and the Home Finance Trust, and restructured the Ministry to provide for a stronger co-ordination and management of housing policy programs in Victoria.

The Act came into effect on 1 January 1984, its objectives being:

To ensure that every person in Victoria has adequate and appropriate housing at a price within his/her means by encouraging;
i/. the provision of well maintained public housing of suitable quality and location.
ii/.the distribution, according to need, of Government financial assistance; and
iii/.the promotion of the orderly planning, assembly and development of land;
To expand and develop the role of the public sector in the provision of housing.
To promote cost effectiveness in the provision of housing
To promote the integration of public and housing
To provide in the public sector a variety of housing types in different locations
To promote security and variety of tenure
To seek the participation of tenants and other community groups in the management of public housing and rental housing co-operatives;
To promote consultation on major housing policy issues with all persons and groups of persons involved in housing
To coordinate the provision of all necessary community services and amenities ancillary to public housing
To formulate and maintain standards of habitation throughout the State
To give due regard to the environmental impact of the activities of the public housing sector.
To promote public awareness of the role and functions of the public housing sector.

The public housing function also encompassed the provision of emergency assistance to low-income households experiencing a housing crisis.

Further restructuring

As part of the machinery of government change in December 1987, the Ministry of Housing was replaced by the Ministry of Housing and Construction (VA 2907) which also assumed responsibility for the functions of the Public Works Department (VA 669). The public housing function was transferred to the Department of Planning and Housing (VA 3013) in 1991. In 1992, the Department of Planning and Development (VA 3094) assumed responsibility for the public housing function until the establishment of the Department of Human Services (VA 3970) in 1996.

By the 1990s the public housing function continued to assume responsibility for maintaining a waiting list and allocation system for those most in need as well as the acquisition, construction, maintenance and upgrade of public housing.
The public housing function also included:

The provision of affordable home finance to lower and moderate income earners who would not normally qualify for finance from other lending institutions, so that they might achieve and maintain full or partial home ownership.

Developing and piloting home finance products, supervising external parties responsible for managing and retailing loan products, risk management of loan portfolios and provision of information on home finance products.

Developing housing policy responses to State and Commonwealth initiatives and developing key policy positions on rent allocation, tenure and related issues, including developing community housing options and program initiatives, conducting sector-wide housing analysis, overseas government-assisted housing research and advising on the economic impact of housing.

The provision of public rental and community managed rental housing programs and assistance to renters in the market.

Managing direct tenure public rental housing, community managed housing programs, rental assistance programs and general coordination of rental operations policies and procedures.

Housing Commission, Annual Reports, 1943-1989

Housing Commission of Victoria, State Housing, 1966

Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board Victoria, First Progress Report: Slum Reclamation- housing for the Lower-Paid Worker, Melbourne, 1936-7

Housing in Victoria, An appreciation by the Minister of Housing, 1949

Progress Report from the Joint Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly, Housing of the People in the Metropolis, Melbourne, 1913

Victorian Government Directory, 1983-1996


Housing Act 1937 (No. 4568) (Vic.)

Slum Reclamation and Housing Act 1938 (No. 4568) (Vic.)

Housing Act 1943 (No. 4996) (Vic.)

Housing Act 1953 (No. 5739) (Vic.)

Housing (Broadmeadows) Act 1956 (No. 6052) (Vic.)

Aborigines (Houses) Act 1959 (No. 6498) (Vic.)

Housing Ministry Act 1972 (No. 8339) (Vic.)

Housing (Amendment) Act 1978 (No. 9246) (Vic.)

Housing Act 1983 (No. 10020) (Vic.)

Housing (Amendment) Act 1987 (No. 26) (Vic.)

Housing (Amendment) Act 1996 (No. 20) (Vic.)

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Other InformationOther Information
Agencies with prime responsibility for this FunctionAgencies with prime responsibility for this Function
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Date of Responsibility Agency Title Agency Number
- 1973 Housing Commission of Victoria VA 508
1973 - 1987 Ministry of Housing VA 609
1987 - 1991 Ministry of Housing and Construction VA 2907
1991 - 1992 Department of Planning and Housing VA 3013
1992 - 1996 Department of Planning and Development VA 3094
1996 - 2014 Department of Human Services VA 3970
2015 - cont Department of Health and Human Services VA 5037
Other Agencies responsible for this FunctionOther Agencies responsible for this Function
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Date of Responsibility Agency Title Agency Number
Groups related to this FunctionGroups related to this Function
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Date of Responsibility Group Title Group Number
- 1945 Treasurer VRG 23
1945 - 1987 Housing VRG 53
1987 - 1991 Housing and Construction VRG 88
1991 - 1992 Planning I VRG 65