The Tasmanian Government is working on a Housing Strategy and has just released a draft for comment. There’s much to like in it, but here at Women’s Health Tas we are wanting to see more information about the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to gender-responsive housing approaches.
The draft Strategy is a bit quiet on this. It just says that “women and children will have housing options to match their circumstances”.
But if you go looking on the Housing Strategy webpage there are interesting signs of what could be very positive possibilities. There’s a document hidden away there called Housing Support for Tasmanians in Need. This document acknowledges the specific ways gender inequality impacts women across their lives and promises to support the housing needs of women by:
Incorporating findings of the Women’s Housing Research Report into the Strategy and associated action plans. This is a small project being done by Shelter Tasmania and Impact Economics into women’s housing (in partnership with the Tas Government).
Delivering more social and affordable housing, as well as crisis and transitional accommodation for women on limited income.
Applying and promoting a gender-responsive approach to housing policies and programs across Tasmania to improve housing outcomes for women.
Incorporating a trauma-informed approach to policies and procedures relating to family violence and to the design of new women’s shelters.
Wow. That’s great.
Why isn’t a commitment to incorporate the research findings made clear in the main document (the draft strategy)? After all, the draft strategy mentions the Shelter Tasmania research. In fact, it is the only population-specific housing research named.
That’s a worry, but not our main one. Our main worry is that the promise in this supplementary document, of “applying and promoting a gender-responsive approach to housing policies and programs across Tasmania to improve housing outcomes for women” also isn't named up in the main strategy document. This is a very important commitment! Did they forget it?
If the Government were to apply a gender-responsive approach it would strengthen and extend the intention of the draft Strategy.
‘What?’ we hear you say. A gender-responsive approach goes beyond ‘including’ women and people of diverse genders in strategies that would otherwise be gender-neutral. This approach would mean policy-makers would have to systematically produce policy responses that recognise gendered roles, responsibilities and risks.
For example, a gender-responsive housing approach might look at the policy for assessing eligibility for public housing and ask: if safety is key to the idea of ‘home’, should a woman with a fixed address who is unsafe in her house because of family violence be considered homeless?
Let’s just digress and talk about the State budget for a minute...
If the Government embeds a gender-responsive policy approach it will need to look at how it allocates funds in the State Budget to ensure it is equitable to all genders.
The Tasmanian Government has said it wants to do a Gender Impact Budget Analysis, and it showed its commitment to this with the release of the first step: the 2023-24 Tasmanian Gender Budget Snapshot.
The Government said this first step would lead to other steps which would lead to a future Gender Impact Assessment process that “will support those developing and advising on policy, funding and programs to consider gender at the outset of development of policy and spending initiatives.”
The first step, the 2023-24 Snapshot, applied gender equality indicators to some budget initiatives to test the strength of their contribution to gender equality. And lo, one of these was a new housing package.
So let’s skip back to the Housing Strategy….
With its pledge to deliver a gender-responsive housing approach, the draft Strategy could really build on the work of the Snapshot. It could commit to providing a gender budget analysis of Tasmanian housing policies and programs for inclusion in annual State Budget reporting.
This would be an opportunity for the Tasmanian Government to really elevate housing policy and planning in Tasmania. It could introduce a gender-responsive housing approach that is transparent and meaningful.
We are itching to see this commitment clarified in the final Strategy. Let’s do it, people!
Photo source: AAP / Dave Hunt