Barak Beacon public housing estate in Port Melbourne

Barak Beacon public housing estate in Port Melbourne
Cory Memery

Estate residents continue to campaign on Homes Victoria’s plan to relocate them, demolish and redevelop the estate and the lack of clear advice on their future housing security.

A local public meeting is being held on May 4, where Homes Victoria is presenting. Save Public Housing Collective member Chloe Cooper will speak and I will advise the results of the meeting in my next column.

Another big redevelopment for investors, not public housing

The state government has announced another project under its Big Housing Build program: the redevelopment of the Richmond public housing estate.

This estate currently has five towers with 1020 units – 408 three-bedroom and 612 two-bedroom apartments, and around 4600 residents. Four new towers will be squashed into a small area reducing green space and residents’ amenity.

The proposed new build on Elizabeth St will replace the very old units that were demolished back in 2007/2008. Those tenants were promised they could come back to new homes but that never happened and is now abandoned with the new plan.

It’s another project designed to exit public housing and use public lands for private profit under a guise of “social” and “affordable” housing. This is a reasonable assessment as the announcement mentions the government is investigating a “third party” source of funding.

It looks very much like a proposal to implement the “ground lease” model, with refurbished existing towers being included in the mix of new homes. This model will be used after the demolition of perfectly good public housing at the Barak Beacon Boulevard estate in Port Melbourne and is already in action on demolished public housing sites at Bangs St in Prahran, Bills St in Brighton and on the Flemington estate.

The model involves the state government providing land free for 40 years for a mix of community housing and discounted market rent and full market rent homes. After 40 years the state government takes up full ownership at no cost. Believing this will happen stretches the imagination.

The discounted rent stock is the so-called “affordable” housing. They pitch the “affordable” housing as being for “essential” workers – teachers, firefighters, childcare workers, nurses and now retail workers – by offering slightly less than market rates: up to 90 per cent as advised in the government’s other announcement on April 1.

To use local private market rents as the benchmark for setting rents is unconscionable. It endorses escalating market rents as the norm. Discounted market rents seem only guaranteed for three years under this proposal and as the local private market rents go up so will discounted these rents.

Collingwood Estate

Residents are continuing their campaign opposing the building of community housing in open space areas of their estate.

State government’s 10-year social and affordable housing strategy

The state government is about to release its 10-year strategy. It has to include investment to end homelessness which has continued to rise in Victoria.

The Save Public Housing Collective has petitioned the government with 5700 signatures to make public housing a priority in this strategy. I will provide an analysis of what is announced in my next column.

Federal Election – May 21

This election campaign has seen the cost of housing rising high among the issues that concern voters of all ages.

One group to follow in seeking more information on the escalating crisis and how it affects older citizens is the Housing Action for the Aged Group (HAAG). You can follow them on Facebook by going to this link:

Liberal and National Parties are telling young and old that if you can’t find affordable homes to rent go and buy one!

They have expanded first homeowner grants – with Labor’s support – that expert housing economists say only drive up prices. Re-electing the current government will do nothing to solve the current crisis and may make it worse.

Labor has a very modest investment proposal on community and affordable rental housing committing to fund the building of only 30,000 over a three-year term of being in government. This means a mere 7500 for the whole of Victoria when the waiting list already has more than 50,000 households in urgent need.

The Greens have a visionary, fully-costed plan to fund the building of one million homes over 20 years made up of public housing; genuine community housing, with rents set the same as for public housing and shared equity for first homeowners.

Funds would be made available for refurbishing and maintaining current public housing instead of demolition and privatisation •

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