Public housing plan won’t dent wait list, expert warns

Dunlop Avenue resident Hima Adam is still waiting for suitable housing for her and her child. Photo by Amber Curtis
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The State Government plans to increase public housing dwellings by 10 per cent in Moonee Valley. But does it justify the sale of land to private developers? Amber Curtis, Brittany Lanyon and Caitlyn Quinn report.

 

An expert in urban planning has said that the State Government’s plan to increase public housing by 10 per cent in Moonee Valley, does not justify the sale of public land to private developers.

The Public Housing Renewal Program aims to replace outdated public housing buildings with modern, medium density housing in Flemington and Ascot Vale by selling the sites to developers.

The sale of both estates is yet to take place.

Dr Kate Raynor, a Melbourne University housing researcher, has concerns that a 10 per cent increase will not make a dent in a public housing wait list of more than 35,000.

“The argument that we’re going to have 10 per cent more (which equates to 110 extra units across this entire (Flemington development) is pathetic and depressing in the extreme and we can do much better than that,” Dr Raynor said.

Expert in urban planning, Dr Kate Raynor discussing her concerns regarding selling public land to private developers. Photo by Caitlyn Quinn

Howard Marosi, an activist working for Public Housing Defence Network, said that social mix housing is an excuse to profit from the sale of public land.

“What’s happening on the estates is a land grab by the private sector.

“The waiting list is so long for public housing, that it’s more important to get that list down than to worry about any sort of social mixture,” said Mr Marosi.

Dr Raynor said that an increase in public housing more medium density blocks, does not necessarily equate to an increase in people being housed on the site.

“A possible and likely outcome is that we will lose that amount of people that can be housed in those locations.”

The new development will feature a move from three and four bedroom apartments to one and two bedroom apartments.

According to the State Government this reflects the demand from public housing applicants.

However, Dr Raynor said the decision may prevent families now living in the Flemington and Ascot Vale estates from moving back to their homes.

She said despite being promised a right of return, residents may find the renewed estate is unable to accommodate their families.

“If you’ve got a family of five how are you going to fit them in one bedroom?” Dr Raynor said.

With most of Dunlop avenue already vacated, residents without the security of neigbours say the Ascot Vale estate can be frightening.

“I’m scared because now in the building there’s no one, just someone on the first floor and me, everyone all around is gone,” said Dunlop Avenue resident, Hina Adam.

She said the Department of Health and Human Services has been slow to find alternative housing for her because of her needs which include a young baby and a desire to be close to the Ethiopian community.

“They told me about Fitzroy but I didn’t want Fitzroy, I want Maribyrnong or North Melbourne because I want to be close with my community,” Ms Adam said.

Councillor Jim Cusack from Moonee Valley City Council also believes the proposed increase isn’t a long-term plan.

To address the problem “the government needs to be getting out into the suburbs,” Cr Cusack said.

“I think there is a serious need in Victoria to increase social housing and even more importantly increase affordable housing,” said Cr Cusack.

He said he hopes that plans to redevelop a number of public housing estates into mixed-tenure neighborhoods will bring a mix of affordable, private housing with public housing.

Councillor Jim Cusack in front of Flemington walk-up dwellings. Photo by Brittany Lanyon.

Social mix housing has been a contentious issue with the Carlton renewal including a wall to divide the private and public buildings.

Dr Kate Raynor said, “I hope that the State Government has learnt from that experience and wouldn’t do the same thing again, but of course if you’ve been burnt once then there is a valid concern that you can be burnt again.”