Stop the demolition of public housing at Barak Beacon, Port Melbourne

Stop the demolition of public housing at Barak Beacon, Port Melbourne
Cory Memery

I am urging all my column readers – as I have in previous columns – to get behind Margaret Kelly and other residents who remain living on this estate. Margaret has declared they will have to carry her out if they want to proceed with the demolition of her home.

A petition has been tabled in state parliament to stop the demolition and instead retain, refurbish and build more housing on the estate. The campaign can be followed on the Save Barak Beacon Facebook page: 

Housing crisis deepens in Melbourne

On March 23, The Age published another article documenting the housing affordability crisis in Melbourne, writing …

“Rental vacancy rates across the country have plummeted over the past two years to record lows. In Melbourne, it is now five times as difficult to find a rental property than it was in the early 2000s. The collapse in vacancy rates is also driving up rent for many properties, making them increasingly unaffordable for the nation’s lowest-income earners.”

The state government’s policies and programs on housing need complete revision. Hoping for an improvement in the next few years and beyond based on current federal and state government policies and programs is delusional.

The private market is causing the problem, not the solution

We all need to understand that the private market for the past two decades has generated the crisis. In 1999 then Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello delivered a wealth windfall to investors by introducing a 50 per cent discount on capital gains when investors sold their properties. Since then, there was a rush to invest and take profits that drove prices up. 

Peter Costello now heads up the Future Fund, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, where the federal government wants to invest $10 billion to get returns to invest in so-called affordable (not public) housing.

When Labor first announced this plan before the election it was promising closer to $1 billion per year from investing with Future Fund. This has been driven down to be just $500 million as the stock market has been volatile and delivering lower returns.

New affordable housing program

The federal government is currently trying to legislate the $10 Billion Future Fund program. It is getting constructive proposals to change course from the Greens and other crossbenchers.

The Victorian Government needs to abandon its current policies of demolishing public housing and defining affordable rental housing as being 90 per cent of local market rents and join in a call for a change of complete course by the two tiers of government with the following new policies:

Invest the federal $10 billion in housing estate retention and refurbishment, and build more;

Remove the capital gains discount and invest projected additional tax revenue in every future year into building more public housing; and

Propose a national conversation on the human right to housing and decide on investments beyond the $10 billion to deliver affordable housing for very low to moderate income households.

* Written with the assistance of the Save Public Housing Collective. •

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