Homelessness continues to be an unresolved social tragedy in Melbourne. There are reportedly 40,000 people on waiting lists for public housing in Victoria (as of March 2017). Additionally, existing public housing, including the ‘walkups’ in Flemington are over 35 years old and are small, damaged, and in need of replacement.
Last time I visited the ‘walkups’ I was accosted by a swam of mosquitos, startled by the number of broken windows, and delighted by the families who generously welcomed me into their homes and offered me tea and biscuits (even though I was talking election-talk and trying to persuade them to vote me onto Moonee Valley Council).
Despite their disrepair, the 198 walkups are home to families – who may have arrived from Vietnam, Sudan, Turkey or the western district of Victoria, but have lived in Flemington for many years, attending local schools, and sharing meals and shopping queues with other Flemington residents.
The 198 homes are soon to be demolished and replaced with at least 218 new ‘social housing’ homes. This is good news – except that, of course, it is more complex than that.
While the homes are being built, families will need to move. This means children potentially changing schools and people leaving friends and networks. Residents have been assured they can return to Flemington if they wish when the new homes have been built, but have raised concerns about whether their rents for new homes will be higher.
It is also not clear whether the new housing options will include three bedroom homes as planning documents refer to only one and two bedroom homes (potentially with connecting doors).
The renewal is part of a state wide investment in public housing that claims to be redeveloping “a number of ageing public housing estates into vibrant, better-connected, mixed tenure neighbourhoods where people can live in housing that is safe and secure”.
The project at Flemington has currently attracted $130M to: “deliver replacement housing by using an approach that involves the Director of Housing:
1. using the equity in under-utilised land to build more social housing through a commercial relationship with the private sector, the State’s delivery agency Development Victoria and/or community housing sectors; and
2. redirecting the proceeds from the sale of land for private development and strategically leveraging program funding to partly or wholly fund the construction of the new social dwellings.” (Emphasis added.)
In short, the construction of the new homes in Flemington will be funded by a commercial partnership involving the sale of public land on the Flemington housing estate for private dwellings.
This approach is justified by its proponents as an economically sound method of facilitating a “vibrant integrated community that breaks the stigma of social housing, reduces anti-social behaviour and increases opportunities for employment, education and connection with the broader community” (Victorian Government press release).
There are concerns, however, about the consultation process, the planning scheme amendments, the impact on existing residents, the low return of new social housing, the lack of clear information about relocation arrangements and type and numbers of new homes, and the sale of public land to facilitate both the social housing and private development.
The proposal for Flemington involves one new 20-storey tower, two new 12-storey towers, three ten-storey towers and some lower level walkup buildings. It will result in approximately 845 new homes, with at least 20 new social housing homes (more on this tomorrow!).
Some points of interest:
- “1,100 properties will be redeveloped across Brunswick, North Melbourne, Heidelberg West, Clifton Hill, Brighton, Prahran, Hawthorn, Northcote and Ascot Vale.
- Vacant parcels of land have been identified as part of a $60 million program to increase the number of social housing properties on land currently owned by the Director of Housing.
- This program is expected to deliver over 400 homes.”
- “The management of 4,000 public housing properties will be transferred to the community housing sector to improve services to tenants through better property management, local housing services and access to support services and grow social housing.”
All of this information and relevant documents can be found here.
Importantly, a planning scheme amendment to facilitate this development is currently on exhibition and submissions can be made before 5.00pm on Friday 21 July 2017.
There is a meeting at Flemington Community Centre Monday 3 July at 7pm so that residents can understand the proposal and how to make submissions.
I’ll provide more information after tomorrow’s meeting – at which I am hoping existing Flemington housing estate residents will inform the broader community of their views on this redevelopment.