Public housing in Carlton gets heritage recognition

Spencer Fowler Steen

The City of Melbourne (CoM) has recognised the importance of historical, public housing in Carlton in a recent heritage review, the first of its kind for the suburb since the 1990s.

A 1980s program of low-scale infill public housing constructed in Kay, Canning and Station streets will be deemed significant under the heritage overlay if the council’s Carlton Heritage Review gets ministerial approval.

The six properties were built between 1981 and 1983 under the Ministry of Housing’s new infill public housing program by architects Edmond and Corrigan, Peter Crone and Gregory Burgess.

Each architect later won awards for these designs, with the infill housing program also taking home the Australian Institute of Architecture 25 Year Award for Enduring Architecture in 2010.

With the intense pattern of development in Carlton in the 19th century, including overcrowding in small dwellings, areas of the suburb became characterised as slums, according to the CoM.

Following concern for the plight of people living in the so-called “slum areas”, often featuring small residential buildings accessed from laneways, agencies and programs aimed at helping people living in these vulnerable conditions were created.


Slum clearance began in the suburb in the 1950s, which saw the demolition of historic housing deemed below acceptable standards for living, and construction of high-rise public housing towers commenced.


But following changing social and economic conditions and opposition to clearance work in the 1960s, it was decided in 1973 that the Housing Commission of Victoria (HCV) would no longer construct high-rise towers on the slum clearance land.

Instead, a program of constructing infill housing started, usually focused on one- and two-storey townhouse developments on small sites.

The Carlton dwellings were built on land which had been reclaimed by the HCV, with most of the properties vacant by the early 1980s, following demolition of the so-called “uninhabitable” or “condemned” housing that had previously occupied the sites.

The Carlton Heritage Review looked at all places within Carlton, and recommended heritage protection for 24 new places, including the six public housing properties, in addition to 52 heritage category changes •

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