Affordable housing proposed on council land

Affordable housing proposed on council land
Brendan Rees

Two council-owned sites in North Melbourne and West Melbourne could be converted into affordable housing under a plan being considered by the City of Melbourne.

The sites at 44-60 Curzon St, North Melbourne and 325-341 Victoria St, West Melbourne would be leased as part of an effort to increase supply of affordable housing in the municipality.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of beginning community engagement on whether council leases both sites.

Public consultation to investigate affordable housing on the Curzon St (pictured) was undertaken in 2022, with the results showing a broad support for affordable housing in the municipality.

However, there were concerns “about the availability of parking in the Curzon St area and about the negative social impacts that an affordable housing development could have on the area”.

“The main benefits that respondents saw arising from an affordable housing development in Curzon St are that it could help address the broader need for lower cost rents,” a council officer’s report stated.

According to a council document presented to councillors, it estimated the city has a shortfall of more than 6000 affordable housing units which was likely to increase to a 27,000-unit shortfall by 2036.

“In the 12 months to December 2023, wages grew 4.2 per cent, while rents grew 15.2 per cent over the same period. The demand for new affordable housing is significantly higher than supply, and there is an urgent need for action,” the report said.

A car parking utilisation report undertaken by the council through Movendo Consultants in 2021 showed there would be “sufficient spare on-street capacity at all times on weekends and weekdays to accommodate the parking demand associated with the loss of this car park (78 car spaces combined), including the parking needs of visitors and shoppers” in North and West Melbourne.

A neighbourhood parking review has begun for West Melbourne following calls from the local community, with parking improvements scheduled for later this year.

 

The council’s health, wellbeing and belonging portfolio lead Cr Dr Olivia Ball said the proposal to lease both sites was “so important and desperately needed at the moment of the extraordinary housing crisis”.

 

“It’s a sign of our commitment to building affordable housing in the City of Melbourne on council land wherever we can and progressing this ambitious target and objective through consulting the community on conversion of two small car parks,” she said.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said that with Melbourne gripped by a housing crisis, “every home that becomes available matters,” adding that the council would also complete its Make Room housing project at 602 Little Bourke St in August.

“We’re working to transform three council-owned sites to give more Melburnians a place to call home, while creating new pathways out of homelessness for our most vulnerable community members,” Cr Capp said.

If the council decides to proceed with leasing the sites, a competitive process would be undertaken to select a community housing provider to develop and manage the site.

Since the council introduced its affordable housing strategy in 2020 it included an action to lease a council-owned site to a community housing provider by 2025. •

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