Demolition of Carlton’s public housing towers

Demolition of Carlton’s public housing towers

A sense of déjà vu permeates the Victorian Government decision to demolish the public housing towers as part of a scheme to remove 44 across Melbourne.

Many Carlton residents will remember the Housing Commission plans in the 1960s that led to mass demolition of terrace houses and the construction of the towers.

But for strong community action by the Carlton Residents’ Association and other resident groups destruction would have been considerably worse. Part of the rationale was for “slum clearance”. Hundreds of families were evicted from their homes and at the best settled in suburbs far from their local community.

The Victorian Government announced that “all 44 of Melbourne’s high-rise public housing towers will be demolished by 2051, with five in Flemington, North Melbourne and Carlton replaced by 2031”.

Already, more than two years ago, residents were removed from the two red brick towers near the corner of Elgin and Nicholson streets.

In September last year, then Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the demolition would require the “relocation of 10,000 residents across Melbourne”. Many of these were born in these apartments and many have lived there for decades. Vibrant and diverse communities will be destroyed.


Priya Kunjan from RMIT Centre for Urban Research says that there is no “clear justification” as to why the towers need to be demolished.


He and six other RMIT academics released a paper that noted the redevelopment plan would exacerbate the housing crisis in a short time. There would be no “net gain supply” in the next decade and later only a small increase.

The government says that the renewal will “boost social housing by 10 per cent”.

All this dislocation for a modest gain and considerable cost.

Architects, including members of the Australian Institute of Architects, believe that the apartments could be renovated at a fraction of the cost of demolition and reconstruction. There are no practical reasons that would hinder renovation.

Studies show that it is economically feasible and environmentally sustainable to refurbish the buildings.

With renovation, residents could remain in the estate with staged building work and temporary housing while work is under way for clusters of apartments.

Australian households renting from State or Territory housing authorities dropped from six per cent in 1999-2000 to three per cent in 2019-2020. In Vienna and Paris 25 per cent of the population live in social housing.

We should be adding to the social housing and not removing what we now have.

We must respect existing communities •

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