Verdict reserved in class action over demolition of public housing towers

Verdict reserved in class action over demolition of public housing towers
Brendan Rees

A Supreme Court of Victoria Judge has reserved their decision on the state government’s application to have a class action against the demolition of public housing thrown out.

In a plan announced last September, the government said it would demolish and redevelop 44 public housing towers across Melbourne, which prompted a wave of uncertainty and fears of displacement among residents.

The North Melbourne towers are listed among the first to go along with estates in Carlton and Flemington at a yet-to-be specified time during the next 30 years.

The towers, which have stood for decades, were deemed outdated and in need of replacement.

The proposal was made as part of the government’s Housing Statement, which pledged to build 800,000 homes over the decade to 2034 to accommodate the state’s growing population, which is forecast to reach 10.3 million by 2051.

The tower at 33 Alfred St had been earmarked as the first tower to be demolished, with residents concerned about being forced out of their homes.

Barry Berin, a resident of 23 years at 33 Alfred St, North Melbourne, filed the class action earlier this year with Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL) acting on behalf of public housing residents in North Melbourne and Flemington.

The class action alleges that residents’ human rights were being disregarded and that public authorities have failed to properly consider their rights throughout the process.

The case was heard at the Supreme Court of Victoria on April 23 where Judge Melinda Richards told the court she would consider all submissions while reserving her judgment. The matter has been adjourned until May 3.

The state government-appointed legal adviser Liam Brown SC told the court, “We say, seeing there’s no real prospect of success because none of the grounds have any merit, we also say, in addition to that, the plaintiff has no prospect of obtaining upon all relief that he seeks,” he said.

Mr Brown added that the policy decision regarding the towers was in the government’s Housing Statement.

“It’s a long-term plan dealing with a very complex, multifaceted policy dilemma. But we also say another important feature of this statement is that it’s high level, and it will necessarily need to be developed and fleshed out and changed, as circumstances change, and as its delivery becomes more certain,” he said.

In a statement, IMCL’s managing lawyer Louisa Bassini said the entire process had occurred without transparency or procedural fairness.  


“The public housing estates aren’t just bricks and mortar that belong to the state government. The towers are home to 10,000 Victorians and their rights matter. Their homes, families and communities are important,” she said.


“The Victorian Government should not prefer expedited and secretive decision-making ahead of proper consideration of people’s rights.”

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing last year said its relocation teams were working with translators and community leaders and participating in briefing sessions, community meetings, and pop-up information stalls to provide renters with information about the project, listen to their questions, and discuss the process for relocating. •

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