Chairperson’s Bulletin No. 1 – 2018

Staff changes:

Our Policy and Communications Manager, Raoul, resigned after the summer holiday break and the VPTA has advertised for a new employee for a modified position description. Raoul worked hard representing the VPTA and the interests of public housing tenants and we thank him for his outstanding contribution.

We received a number of applications for the vacancy and conducted a rigorous selection process and interviews of a small field of outstanding applicants. A new staff member will likely commence employment in mid-April.

Management Transfers

The VPTA has repeatedly asked Government and the Department for the business case for management transfers of public housing properties to the not-for-profit sector in order to assess the benefits that might be achieved. Whilst unsubstantiated claims have been made that “tenants will be better off”, no proper business case has been put forward.

Without proper details of the business case, costs, benefits, property locations and tenancy management, the VPTA is unable to support a proposal to transfer the management of large numbers of public housing properties to the not-for-profit sector, as was announced by the State Government last year. Such transfers would decrease the amount of public housing stock in Victoria and do not guarantee significant growth in total social housing supply.

We will provide further information to tenants via our Bulletins and website when details of the proposed management transfers are made known.

“We need more Public Housing”- The VPTA supports public housing growth and redevelopment

There are development models proven to work, such as Olympia in Heidelberg West, where targeted public housing properties are sold to private developers, with the funds raised being used to redevelop and increase the remaining public housing stock. This has resulted in much better land utilisation and a more diverse and cohesive community with the bonus of an increase in public housing. Public housing tenants are much better housed.

The broad acre Olympia project has much in common with the current walk–up redevelopment projects. The walk-up redevelopments have been in a consultative stage for over 12 months and we are now starting to see tenants move out from sub-standard properties not fit for purpose that are dilapidated and beyond reasonable repair and cost effective maintenance. Public housing should provide a reasonable standard of accommodation for occupants.

The walk-up redevelopment model chosen whereby some land is sold provides for better land utilisation, stock replacement and growth but it is not the only model.

Ideally, public housing land should remain owned by the state and not permanently alienated. This could be achieved by long-term leasing arrangements, shared equity purchases and other schemes where the dwellings can be bought and sold but land title remains with the State.

Whilst the minimum 10% uplift promised for the walk-up redevelopment sites is welcome, every effort must be made to achieve more growth as the projects roll out. An increase of 10% of dwellings on these sites alone will do little to address the urgent need for significant growth of public housing stock

There are some 600 vacant blocks owned by the Director of Housing that should be used for public housing and options should be explored to fast track these developments. Existing public housing stock across suburban and inner Melbourne should be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that outdated unsuitable properties on larger blocks are redeveloped in conjunction with local government and developers to create more affordable housing whilst significantly increasing public housing stock.

Clearly, we need more affordable social housing in areas close to jobs, services and public transport. Land close to the city is at a premium and must be fully utilised.  The challenge for politicians is to make it happen. Victoria needs a lot more public housing.

The above statements include excerpts from an open letter from the VPTA sent last month to the Minister for Housing, the Opposition Spokesperson on Housing and the Leader of the Victorian Greens. We have since met with all parties.

The VPTA is seeking detailed housing policy and concrete plans from all parties to deliver more public housing for Victoria.