The Victorian and Federal Governments are destroying our public housing
There was new optimism on solving the housing affordability crisis in Australia when the Australian Greens came to an agreement with the federal Labor government to legislate the formation of a new federal government housing fund.
The Greens had been under attack for holding up an initiative that would provide new housing and reduce homelessness. They did not waver and secured additional funds.
Within a week Prime Minister (PM) Anthony Albanese was in Melbourne jointly announcing with now former Premier Andrews the demolition of two vacant public housing towers in Carlton and their replacement with new dwellings but did not specify whether they will be public housing.
Sewerage problems were advanced to justify demolition but no assessment of the prospects for repair and refurbishment has been made available. PM Albanese lauded the Premier for not “flogging off” public land to developers and boasted about his own campaigning to stop public housing selloffs in Sydney.
The media release from the PM spelt out that the new dwellings would actually be used to accommodate residents from other public housing estates that would be redeveloped in the future.
Alarmingly, the scale of this new program was revealed two days later when the Premier announced that all 44 Melbourne public housing towers would be demolished over the next three decades and replaced with a mere 10 per cent more “social”, not public, housing.
The estates that now provide homes to 10,000 will become homes to 30,000 with around 20,000 paying rents to investors at market and slightly discounted market rates, if the current formula for redeveloping other estates like Barak Beacon is used.
“Social” housing residents will see their rents go to 30 per cent of their gross income – a 20 per cent increase over public housing rents.
Just how this is characterised as providing more affordable housing is mind-bending!
I am calling the proposed new dwellings at Carlton relocation camps, not affordable housing!
Contempt for people and parliaments
Homes Victoria staff, and no doubt casual workers, were out in force the same day on estates telling residents the bad news.
The federal government did not make it clear that this was what their new fund would support in Victoria when it tabled its legislation and negotiated with the Australian Greens.
The Victorian Government is yet to present this plan to its parliamentary committees for discussion and comment.
Anxiety in each community is already massive.
The scale of disruption will be huge – connections to jobs, schools, medical services, etc., all shattered.
What will happen if you are aged and/or have a disability and have local support networks that can’t be readily replicated?
I hope a huge majority of residents say, “No we won’t leave … retain and refurbish instead!”
I also hope voters in the state and federal electorates where these towers are will not return Labor members at the next elections and that they instead elect MPs who support retaining and refurbishing public housing and commit to more being built. •
*Prepared with the assistance of the Save Public Housing Collective.