Warrnambool needs another 1430 properties to meet the demand for social housing in the city - a problem that is only expected to get worse, a new report has found.
The newly released Warrnambool Social Housing Planning Project found that demand far exceeded supply and by 2036 the number of properties needed was expected to grow to 2812 - almost four times what currently exists.
Ideas flagged to deal with the growing problem include partnering with windfarm companies to create housing for workers which could be then turned into social housing after they leave.
Residential housing above CBD car parks and redeveloping council-owned housing to cater for more people were other ideas raised.
The council report, which was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and done in consultation with local organisations, found that homelessness was a "hidden" and "significant" issue in the city.
Cr David Owen said the report's findings were the "tip of the iceberg".
"With domestic violence and so on we're going to see more and more of this needed," Cr Owen said.
"The majority of homeless are women in their 50s now who have been kicked out of their home, and with children. Why aren't we looking after our women and children?
"We need to change our whole social structure so that this homelessness doesn't happen.
"Surely to goodness we should be able to do something better for our women and children and certainly during this pandemic it's getting worse.
"We're hearing figures of domestic violence getting higher and higher. People sleeping on couches and people moving from places to places."
The report found that homlessness impacted disproportionately on women, single people, single-parent families, younger and older residents, people with mental illness and people with a disability.
Statistics show that the number of low-income households in Warrnambool jumped by 561 between 2011 and 2016 - 226 of them single-person households.
And with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic set to put many more out of work in the longer term, the report predicts the city was expected to see a "significant" increase in low income households.
Over the past two decades, the percentage of properties in Warrnambool that were set aside for social housing fell from 7.6 per cent in 1991 to 5.2 per cent in 2016.
And that figure showed that there was a higher per centage of people in Warrnambool living in social housing compared to the whole of regional Victoria the figure was 3.3 per cent.
Estimates put the number of households experiencing rental stress and homelessness at 1430 in 2020 - 14 per cent of all Warrnambool households.
The council's city growth director Andrew Paton said while the report gave a snapshot of what social housing existed in the municipality it also outlines how the council could help find a solution to address the problem.
"A key message of this report is that the social housing stock of Warrnambool has not kept pace with the growth of the city," Mr Paton said.
"It's even more pertinent, given the COVID-19 situation, that we look to be proactive in this space because the problem is not going away.
"We need to ensure that the housing diversity options to our community, new and existing, are there."
He said the research had found that just over five per cent of the city's properties was social housing to cater for low income earners and the homeless, but that number probably needed to increase to 14 per cent.
And in the next 20 years the level of social housing stock in the city needed to be four times that amount, Mr Paton said.
"The challenge is there. This piece of work will be a good starting point to make a progressive move, in partnership with many others, to address this issue," he said.
Ideas to increase the existing social housing stock include partnering with windfarm companies to deliver housing they need for workers which could then be used for social housing when they leave.
Large infrastructure projects that have brought more workers to the region have put an added stress on an already tight rental market in the city, the report found.
The report flags the idea of bring together landowners, developers and windfarm companies to broker an arrangement where "the infrastructure and energy companies provide housing for their staff in the short to medium term on the land of willing developers, and the housing is then sold to community housing organisations once the projects are completed".
"The contractual arrangements would need to be such that the proposal is economically viable and sustainable for all parties," the report said.
The report also suggests redevelopment of existing social housing sites across the city to cater for more people
About 25 council-owned sites were identified in the report for potential development for public housing.
It also suggests residential development above the city's five car parks in the centre of town
Cr Sue Cassidy said the 13 council-owned houses it rented to community members could be looked at to see if they could be redeveloped to cater for more families or individuals.
She said that with the tightening of the rental market, the shortfall in social housing was only going to increase "if we don't change our ways".
Cr Cassidy said the document would get the conversation started within the community about how the city could plan for the future.
The report also highlighted the need to entice a community housing provider to open an office in Warrnambool.
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