The organisation has a long history – 15 years – of advocating for the housing rights of people on low to moderate incomes in the ACT.
ACT Shelter was incorporated under the ACT Associations Incorporation Act in April 1996. Prior to this a small group of dedicated volunteers had been working for some 10 years in the social housing sector raising housing issues for low to moderate income earners with the Government. A Shelter representative was invited to sit on the ACT Government’s Housing Advisory Committee but without funding, there were limitations on how far we could effectively represent the housing needs of people on low to medium incomes.
ACTCOSS at this time were funded by the ACT Government to employ a housing support worker but most other States and Territories had funded independent Housing Peak bodies which were networked under the umbrella of the federally funded National Shelter. So in 1996 the ACT Government agreed to fund a newly incorporated ACT Shelter for $50,000 per annum. We have gratefully received funding support from the ACT Government since that time.
Over the last 15 years, ACT Shelter Incorporated has worked with community and government on several levels in advocating for safe, secure and affordable housing for low to middle-income ACT residents.
ACT Shelter has provided major input into the ACT Homelessness Strategy: Breaking the Cycle (2004); the Affordable Housing Action Plan (2007); the ACT Social Plan and the ACT Social Compact between the Community Sector and Government; the ACT Housing Advisory Committee; the ACT Homelessness Advisory Committee; and the Anti-Poverty Task Force. The lack of affordable housing in the ACT was (and is) a significant factor highlighted in all the ACT Government final plans and strategies from all of these government and community initiatives. It is also as a consequence of these partnerships that the ACT Government continues to maintain the highest percentage of public housing in the country in recognition of the high price and scarcity of suitable and sustainable private sector housing in the ACT.
A major piece of work for ACT Shelter in 2005/6 was to raise awareness of Housing as a Human Right. Our project, funded with the assistance of ACTCOSS and the Youth Coalition of the ACT, distributed cards and posters throughout the ACT raising awareness that housing is a basic right which should be afforded to all citizens.
Consultative mechanisms in which we have had an ongoing role are: the Joint Community Government Reference Group; the ACT Community Sector Task Force; and Joint Pathways. These committees are joint ACT Government/Peaks meetings that look at the whole-of-government relationships with the community sector. It was as a result of the community sector task force in the mid-2000s that the ACT Government committed to giving their community partners annual funding increases of a wage-based CPI which enables the agencies to ensure their staff are getting remuneration that keeps up with inflation.
Since 2000 ACT Shelter has also played an active role working with our community sector partners in highlighting specific issues with the general public such as Anti-Poverty Week and Tenancy Week.