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State Government’s Housing Statement offers boost to Public Housing but falls short on what is needed

21 Sep 2023

Merri-bek City Council has welcomed the State Government’s commitment to boosting investment in housing supply and affordability as part of the recent Housing Statement Announcement. However, is concerned the commitments fall short on making significant inroads to fixing the housing crisis. 

With 60% of public housing in the state more than 40 years old, the need to upgrade ageing infrastructure to provide comfortable, economic and energy efficient homes is well overdue and warmly welcomed. However, with the urban renewal project across Melbourne’s 44 high-rise social housing towers promising only a 10% uplift in Public and Social housing supply, the commitment falls far short on addressing a growing and crippling demand. 

Merri-bek City Council Mayor Angelica Panopoulos said: “Although welcomed, the commitment of a 10% Social Housing uplift through the replacement of high-rise towers in Melbourne is not adequate to service the current demand. Fundamentally, this fails to address crippling shortages throughout the state.” 

“Although we welcomed the State Government’s investment in Social and Affordable Housing via the Big Housing Build, we believe that much more Public and Social housing should be delivered through redevelopment than what is being promised in the Housing Statement. 

“A 30% increase in Public and Social housing dwellings in the redevelopment of Harvest Square (previously Gronn Place) has been seen in Brunswick West alone and we would implore such increases to be matched and exceeded in future commitments.  

Council is also concerned about the impact such redevelopments will have on residents. “Relocation of Public Housing residents (or any residents for that matter) due to redevelopment can have long-term negative impacts on local communities” said Mayor Panopoulos. 

“We need assurances that our older residents living at the tower at 351 Barkly St, Brunswick will not be displaced from friends and neighbours in this upgrade process. We strongly encourage the State Government to continue to also explore lower impact renovations and retrofits where possible and ensure residents are engaged in genuine co-design processes at an early stage. 

Council also supported the move to apply a state-wide levy of 7.5% to short-stay accommodation as part of the Statement, with revenue raised funnelled straight to investment in Social and affordable housing via Homes Victoria. But Cr Panopoulos said a cap on the number of nights that a property could be used as for short-stay accommodation should have been another lever to transform more houses into longer-term rental homes.  

“We welcome reforms that will make housing more affordable. But we want to see the State Government working together with councils to realise housing projects that will really make a big difference to our communities—such as delivering Public and affordable housing on existing Council landholdings in Central Coburg,” Cr Panopoulos said.