North Melbourne residents unite against demolition of public housing

North Melbourne residents unite against demolition of public housing
Ellen Sandell

I recently joined a packed event in North Melbourne, where residents gathered to talk about how they can work together to stop the demolition and privatisation of public housing in North Melbourne and Flemington.

Awil has lived in the North Melbourne public housing towers for 23 years. His children go to the local school, and he is an active member of his local community.

Like so many of his neighbours, Awil was shocked to hear that the Victorian Labor Government plans to demolish his home. He doesn’t know if he’ll be separated from his family and community, if he’ll have to take his kids out of school, or if he’ll ever be able to return to the local neighbourhood he loves.

But one of the worst parts of Labor’s plan to demolish all of Melbourne’s public housing towers is that no public housing will be rebuilt on these sites at all.

So far, Labor’s plan is that most of the public housing land at North Melbourne and Flemington (and every other high-rise estate in Melbourne) will be used for expensive private apartments, with a small amount of privatised “community housing” and no actual public housing at all. This is what has happened at other estates which have been privatised, including Abbotsford St in North Melbourne.

The Labor Government seems to be trying to get rid of the vast majority of public housing across Victoria, so they bear no responsibility for social housing into the future.

Residents are concerned and angry that they will not be able to return to public housing that’s managed by the state government but will instead only have the choice of going into “community housing” or other privatised “affordable housing”, which are often much more expensive.

And while “community housing” can be a good thing, it does not provide the same protections, rents or security of tenure as public housing, and many residents are worried about what this means for their families’ futures.

Many residents are still understandably shocked and confused by Labor’s announcement that their homes will be demolished. With the demolition due to begin in 2025, residents still haven’t been told where they will be moved to and when or if they’ll be able to return to North Melbourne.

My office is supporting a resident-led petition against the privatisation of public housing in Victoria. If you’re interested in helping us get signatures (if we get enough signatures we can force a special debate in Parliament), then please get in touch.

As Awil said at the meeting, “People who are unified for their human rights cannot be defeated.” •

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