New public housing resident action groups created

New public housing resident action groups created
Spencer Fowler Steen

New resident action groups have been established for public housing residents in North Melbourne and Flemington, ensuring locals have a say in decisions impacting their homes and communities.

The new resident groups form part of the Victorian Government’s $7.5 million Paving the Way Forward Program (PWFP), which is designed to assist public housing residents to achieve improvements in health, education, and employment through a range of projects.

Residents hope the new groups will fix a range of serious amenity problems at the towers, which in the past have included a lack of clean water for weeks, broken heaters in winter, lifts not working and faulty stoves, washing machines and dryers.

The groups will also work towards improving communication at the towers, potentially through providing translators and better signage in more languages.

The announcement follows sharp criticism earlier this year from the Victorian Ombudsman who said it was “disappointing” the Victorian Government had not apologised to public housing residents in North Melbourne and Flemington, who were without warning plunged into lockdown last year in breach of their human rights.

North West City News understands there are five groups, each covering a different issue – improving communication, COVID-19 responses, maintenance, Holland Court redevelopment, and access to community rooms.

North Melbourne public housing resident Mohamed Sudi is a member of three of the resident action groups; improving communication, COVID-19 responses and maintenance.

Mr Sudi welcomes the initiative, but hopes the groups will fix serious problems that arise at his tower, which in the past have included dirty drinking water which left residents with no option but to go to other units to shower and drink.

“For a few residents – the tap water has a problem where it’s dirty and they had to call a contractor, who had to delay, which meant they couldn’t have a shower or drink water,” he said.

“Some residents had to wait three weeks which meant they had to go downstairs to get better water.”

Mr Sudi said his maintenance group was working towards getting a repair person to be on stand-by to fix communal laundry facilities such as washing machines and dryers which were crucial for a majority of residents who often couldn’t afford their own.

“Each level has a laundry to use for residents, and some of them, level 10 in particular, the washing machine or dryer doesn’t work, and you’re not allowed to go down to use the other ones on other levels,” he said.

 

Most levels have two washing machines and two dryers, but you have to queue to use them.

 

Mr Sudi said PTWF was talking to housing contractors to employ more repair people.

He said there were only one or two contractors, who also worked on other buildings across Melbourne, available for the entire building to fix broken amenities such as electrical stoves and elevators.

“And sometimes the heaters don’t work, which is bad in winter. How are we going to heat the whole house? It’s tough during winter,” he said.

There are more than 35 members involved across the five groups which are for residents only, with each group meeting once every two weeks over Zoom for now.

The resident action groups started in October with an information session allowing residents to ask questions about the process and to nominate themselves to specific groups.

Mr Sudi said the resident action groups had also been discussing hiring out community spaces for residents who send their kids to homework clubs, as well as having interpreters on-site to communicate vital information about COVID-19 to residents.

According to the state government, all issues raised by the groups will be directed to the relevant program area within the Department of Families Fairness and Housing (DFFH).

They will then be raised directly with other relevant government departments, local government and community agencies and be a key part of local action plans for each housing precinct.

A DFFH spokesperson said residents at the Flemington and North Melbourne public housing precincts would benefit form a range of health and wellbeing projects through the PWFP.

“An important part of this program is the establishment of Resident Action Groups, which will ensure residents have a major say in decisions impacting their homes and communities,” the spokesperson said.

 “These groups will strengthen the diverse communities at Flemington and North Melbourne – helping them address important issues and develop a greater sense of belonging.”

Last month, Minister for Housing Richard Wynne announced 25 community-led projects supporting residents across the Flemington and North Melbourne public housing precincts would soon begin with funding through the $200,000 Paving the Way Forward Community Grants program.

According to the state government, the projects include:

$10,000 to deliver a pop-up after-school play program to help with recovery from the social, emotional and developmental impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns and remote learning;

$4750 for the Resident Skills Development Project, which will offer nationally recognised training, credentials and valuable volunteer experience to provide pathways to employment; and

$4400 for a digital literacy course for refugee and asylum seeker women to fill the education gap and provide students with practical skills to confidently live, learn, and work.

Community development workers will also be employed through community partner organisations in Flemington and North Melbourne to improve access to services and enable residents to be more involved in decisions about their homes and neighbourhood.

Mr Wynne said the state government was giving public housing residents the “power” to make decisions about their housing and local neighbourhood.

“From after-school play programs to digital literacy courses and employment pathways, these programs will ensure public housing residents are not left behind as we recover from the pandemic,” he said.

The state government has not yet apologised for the snap lockdown in July last year which left many without food, essential medicine, and no access to fresh air, surrounded by police •

The Bridal Lament opens at Arts House

The Bridal Lament opens at Arts House

May 15th, 2024 - Georgie Atkins
Like us on Facebook