Media Release

VPTA Memo to Politicians

We need more Public Housing in Victoria NOW and for the benefit of the entire community for many years to come.

The supply of public housing has not kept pace with demand; a situation exacerbated by rapid population growth, ever increasing private rents and ri s ing property prices that make home ownership prohibitive for many people.

Victoria currently has some 64,000 public housing dwellings; about the same number we had 20 years ago. Successive Governments and politicians ofallpersuasions have not exactly covered themselves with glory when i t comes to the provision of public housing for those who need i t. We must do better as a State.

The solution that is called for in some quarters is for Government to spend more money on public housing. Unfortunately, Governments have shown an unwillingness or inability to do this so we must look at practical, implementable and affordable solutions; otherwise we will continue to see a decline in public housing as evidenced by past performance.

We believe Government must take responsibility for the supply and management of public housing by ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to facilitate growth in public housing and the provision of affordable and social housing more generally.

We get more and more callsfrom people and families enquiringabout public housing as they are struggling to find suitable housingin the current private rental market. This includes working single people and families with both partners working who have never been on welfare. This i s a state-wide problem not l imited to a few municipalities.

There is much that can be done to increase the supply of public housing in the short term but i f we are to see real sustained growth we need politicalleadership a nd politicians of all persuasions working together to make i t happen. This approach would be best practice .

Housing developments take many years so starting the process now i s paramount.

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 used to redevelop and increase the remaining public housingstock. This hasresulted in much better land utilisation, a more diverse and cohesive community with the bonus of an increase in public housing. Public housing tena nts are much better housed.

The VPTA supports Public Housing growth and redevelopment.

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 from sub-standard properties not fi t for purpose, being dilapidated and beyond reasonable repair and cost effective maintenance. Public housing should provide a reasonable standard of accommodation for occupants.

Tenants for the most part are looking forward to better housing, albeit the disruption of having to relocate and later return i f they want to causes some level of anxiety. Feedback from relocated tenants hasbeen very positive. The value to those tenants impacted by upgrading 1000 properties cannot be underestimated.

Whilst the minimum 10% uplift promised is welcome, every effort must be made to achieve more growth as the projects roll out. This willbe a challenge for developers and for Government. When working plans are available there will need to be broad community consultation and some fine -tuning as a result.

Victoria cannot afford for the current redevelopment work to cease. After all, i t i s the only game in town.

Land close to the city is at a premium and must be fully utilised. The walk up redevelopment model chosen whereby some land is sold provides for better land utilisation, stock replacement and growth but i t is not the only model. Ideally, public housingland should remain owned by the state and not permanently alienated. This could be achieved by long-term leasing arrangements, shared equity purchasesand other schemes where the dwellings can be bought and sold but land ti tle remains with the State.

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.

Existingpublic housing stock acrosssuburban and inner Melbourne should be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that outdated unsuitable propertieson larger blocks are redeveloped in conjunction with local government and developers to create more affordable housingwhilst significantly increasing public housingstock. Clearly, we need more affordable social housing in areas close to jobs, services and public transport.

The challenge for politicians i s to make i t happen. Victoria needs a lot more public housing