Last week the City of Port Phillip released their strategy for growing affordable housing.
“In Our Backyard” outlines Council’s actions and policies that will be implemented up to 2025. The strategy builds on a long history of housing activism by the City of Port Phillip and its predecessor councils (St. Kilda, Port Melbourne and South Melbourne).
The key focus of the strategy is that affordable housing is vital to maintaining social inclusion, equity and tolerance.
Like all inner-city areas, the City of Port Phillip has undergone a period of rapid gentrification. This has impacted on housing affordability with less than one per cent of private rental housing priced at levels that are affordable to low income households. Over 6,200 households in Port Phillip experience rent stress.
Coupled with this is the reduction in the proportion of social housing in the municipality. Social housing constituted eight per cent of total housing stock in 1996, but this has reduced to 7.2 per cent now. It is estimated that if urgent action is not taken, this figure will reduce to 5.9 per cent by 2025.
The specific policies contained in the strategy are;
Provide a pipeline of Council property assets and supporting cash contributions for the purposes of delivering new community housing units in the City of Port Phillip. This will involve the allocation of Council cash and property contributions over the next 10 years of $30 million. This property pipeline is expected to deliver a total of 170 new community housing units, depending on site parameters and target housing type. All identified properties will be transferred to a housing trust or other legal mechanism to protect Council’s interests in perpetuity and to ensure ongoing benefits to the Port Phillip community.
Pursue inclusion of community housing as a component of private development on divested Council land. Under this policy the City of Port Phillip will identify surplus or underutilised Council properties suitable for housing or mixed use development, which could deliver a component of community housing as a social return to Council.
Facilitate opportunities to increase affordable housing yield and diversity on existing social housing sites through transfer, redevelopment, or sale and reinvestment.
Facilitate Port Phillip Housing Association to leverage existing Port Phillip Housing Trust property assets to deliver an increased supply of community housing.
Apply planning mechanisms that encourage the private sector to deliver new affordable housing units. In particular there will be a focus on investigation on the application of planning mechanisms in Fishermans Bend to achieve better affordable housing outcomes.
Facilitate the delivery of affordable housing projects by others. In particular, through the facilitation of partnerships between the Victorian and Commonwealth governments, private organisations, Community Land Trusts, philanthropic foundations, ethical investors, charities and other housing providers.
Foster innovative models to achieve a broader spectrum and diversity of affordable housing.
The VPTA does not agree with everything in the City of Port Phillip strategy. For example, we have not seen any evidence to justify their conclusion that the Victorian Government “sees community housing organisations as the primary vehicle for growing social housing across the state”.
But what is important here is that a local council is willing to play a leadership role in driving the debate about affordable housing. As such, they have set an example for other councils, as well as the Victorian and Commonwealth governments.
Further, they are willing to invest in affordable housing outcomes, rather than hoping that other levels of government will do what is required.