Victorian Labor Party conference backs public housing demolition

Victorian Labor Party conference backs public housing demolition
Cory Memery

Just a few months ago the media was full of speculation about a division in the Victorian branch of the Labor Party over the proposed demolition of 44 public housing high-rise buildings in Melbourne.

This turned out to not be the case at their recent state conference where Labor’s policies are decided.

An internal group of MPs – state and federal – calling themselves “Labor for Housing” was leading the public criticism of the plan. They were strongly criticising the plan to only increase resident numbers by only 10 per cent from 10,000 to 11,000 living in new “community” – not public – housing. They proposed a doubling to 20,000 residents.

This all fizzled out on the conference floor with a fake win that no public housing lands would be sold off to private developers. The government plans already involve no sale of these lands. This is the Ground Lease Model (GLM) approach in operation after the disastrous failure of the original Public Housing Renewal Program that included land sales.

Private developers and government registered community housing providers secure demolished public housing land at no cost to build a mix of community, “affordable” and full market rent housing.

Labor for Housing promote themselves as public housing resident allies but nothing could be further from the truth.

So-called “affordable housing”

It may also be the case that the inclusion of so-called “affordable” housing in the redevelopments won over Labor for Housing delegates.

This housing has been described by the Labor government as being for “essential workers” – teachers, fire and rescue workers, ambos, and childcare workers – so they can live closer to where they work.

Rents are set at a maximum of 90 per cent local full private market rents or 30 per cent of gross – not after tax – household income. A two-income household of $140,000 would have to pay $807 a week under this policy!

There is no transparency on how this is already operating on redeveloped public housing estates. Tenancy applications are being managed by private operators. There is no public reporting on the occupations of those getting accommodation, what the rents are and if they are in fact closer to their workplaces.

Real solutions to our housing affordability crisis

In my May column in Inner City News, I backed the Australian Greens’ proposal for a national, public home builder that would build public housing and no-profit homes for first homebuyers. It is a proposal that can work.

Immediate opportunities are available in the City of Melbourne where the council is calling for a mandated 25 per cent of all new housing build in the city to be affordable. Developers have been failing to use affordable housing bonuses for office development approvals because it is voluntary (The Age, April 12, 2024).

The council also owns two sites ideal for building public housing at 44-60 Curzon St, North Melbourne and at 325-341 Victoria St, West Melbourne.

The state government has abandoned an election promise to build a new Arden hospital – this land could be also used. •

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