Public housing – the best way to solve our housing crisis 

Public housing – the best way to solve our housing crisis 
Cory Memery

When the Victorian parliamentary Inquiry into the Public Housing Renewal Program (PHRP) handed down its report on June 5, 2018, it advised there were 36,742 applicant households on the Victorian Housing Register (VHR) made up of 57,077 adults and 24,622 children – a total of 81,699 at the end of March 2018.

The latest information from the VHR at the end of March this year advises there are 50,839 households – a 35 per cent increase over three years! The Save Public Housing Collective has estimated the number of adults and children to now be around 77,000 adults and 32,900 children.

It is now very clear that the PHRP is not delivering even one replacement publicly owned and managed dwelling and it won’t assist with reducing the waiting list.

The Save Public Housing Collective is now tracking what is happening through the PHRP using its Public Housing Watch Victoria tool:

The PHRP project at Abbotsford St, North Melbourne, for example, has seen 112 public housing units in good structural condition demolished. 

There has been no advice on when construction will start on housing that will be managed by the developer’s community housing partner when completed.

The Protect Abbotsford Street Estate group has reported that all residents on the estate were relocated during 2018 and have been accommodated in leased private housing.

The full cost of temporary accommodation was stated as being $16,800 per day by one of DHHS’ PHRP consultants in response to a Supreme Court action by a community neighbour over asbestos found on the estate.

This will amount to tens of millions of dollars for the years it will take to complete construction. This money would have been better spent on progressively refurbishing the 112 demolished public housing units.

Public housing residents in other estates in the City of Melbourne live in overcrowded conditions in buildings that are not safe and need urgent maintenance work.

Many residents fear demolition of their homes is next, as decided by the government for Flemington estates.

The Public Housing Renewal Program turned out to be a falsehood, it is not about the renewal of public housing.

Its objectives are really the exiting of publicly owned and managed housing with the handing over of public housing land to developers (on peppercorn leases, e.g., $1 per year) to build private housing and have community housing providers take over what should be the government’s responsibilities.

Support for public housing

Dr David Hayward (RMIT) in his recent opinion piece made it clear that publicly owned and managed housing is the most effective way to end the housing crisis in Australia.

I agree with Dr Hayward: governments – both state and federal – need to stop subsidising private investor housing even when they are proposed as build-to-rent (BtR) projects.

None of the recent BtR in Melbourne provide any hope of affordable accommodation for those on the state’s waiting list •

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