Why is this important?
The Victorian Labor government is planning to sell off public housing land to private developers.
Labor wants to demolish hundreds of homes and replace them with expensive private apartments, along with a small amount of new public or social housing.
If Labor gets its way, private developers will make big profits while people in public housing will lose out.
New public homes might be smaller. Many people might not come back to their homes. Remaining residents will lose parking and open space.
82,000 people are on the public housing waiting list, including 27,000 children. Melbourne needs to build new public housing on a massive scale like we did in the 1960s.
Many homes are in need of an upgrade, but government should just fix them up, not sell off the land.
If Labor sells off public housing land, we’ll never get it back. Melbourne’s housing crisis would just get worse.
The Greens are standing up for public housing.
- No rent increases
- More public housing
- No sell-offs
- No privatisation
- No management transfers
- Better security
- More maintenance
- Upgraded homes
Frequently Asked Questions
Information below has been compiled from public announcements, information gathered by community members, experiences from comparable programs, and the findings of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Labor's public housing sell-offs. Further information will be added as it becomes available.
See below the fold for information.
- What is Labor’s plan?
- Which estates are scheduled for private development?
- How much new housing will there be?
- How many new units will be constructed at each estate?
- Will new housing be the same size as the housing it replaces?
- What is the difference between public and community housing?
- Does changing housing mix actually work?
- What will it take to fix Victoria’s housing crisis?
- What is the Greens alternative?
- What is the outcome for developers?
- What will the estates look like after the redevelopments?
- Will there be more public transport to accommodate the increase in density?
- What will be the impact on neighbourhood amenity for remaining residents?
- When will residents need to leave their homes?
- What will happen to residents whose homes are demolished?
- How can I take action to stop the sell-off of public housing land?
- What will be the impact on the community?
What is Labor’s plan?
The Victorian Labor government plans to hand over valuable inner-city public housing land to private developers. Existing buildings will be bulldozed and private developers will replace them with new buildings, including high-rise towers. The developers will be required to build some new social housing units within the new development alongside for-profit private housing. Labor’s plan effectively replaces old public housing with a little more social housing and much more private housing.
Which estates are scheduled for private development?
Labor's Public Housing Renewal Program has nominated estates in Northcote, Brunswick West, Heidelberg West, North Melbourne (Abbotsford St), Ascot Vale, Clifton Hill, Flemington, Hawthorn, Prahran, and Preston for redevelopment. In March 2019 Labor confirmed that the first of these to be redeveloped will be Northcote, North Melbourne, and Preston.
How much new housing will there be?
The Victorian Labor government said there will be 10 per cent more social housing on each estate. ‘Social housing’ is an umbrella term for both public housing and community housing.
Developers will try to squeeze as many new private dwellings onto the same land as possible.
An 80:20 private to social mix was floated by the government, suggesting more than 4x the current number of units will be added in total.
In the case of the Flemington estate, over 800 private units will be built alongside a net increase of just 20 social housing units.
Community pressure may have led to some concessions from Labor and may result in a greater amount of new social housing.
How many units will be constructed at each estate?
According to announcements by Labor and public documents, estates scheduled for redevelopment by private developers include the following. The below figures are based on initial announcements and may be approximate or based on stated projections of 10% increase in social housing. Labor has come under significant community pressure to increase the numbers of public housing units built and the final figures of social and private housing may differ from the below in final contracts.
- Northcote (demolishing 87 units, replacing with 96 public/social units and 154 private units. *Update: reported 4/3/19 that 87 units to be demolished, replaced with 106 social units and 143 private units)
- Brunswick West (demolishing 81 units, rebuilding approx. 90 public/social units and 190 private units)
- Heidelberg West, Bellbardia and Tarakan estates (demolishing 164 units, rebuilding approx. 180 public/social units and 550 private units)
- North Melbourne - Abbotsford St (demolishing 112 units, replaced by 123+ public/social units and 200+ private units. *Update: reported 4/3/19 that 112 units to be demolished, replaced with 133 social units and 172 private units)
- Ascot Vale (1000 units currently, scale of redevelopment not announced but expected to be 3000+ units, mostly private)
- Flemington (demolishing 198 units, building 220 public/social units and 850 private units)
- Hawthorn (approx. 50 units demolished, replaced by 58 public/social units and 350 private units)
- North Brighton (demolishing 127 units, rebuilding 140 public/social units and 327 private units)
- Clifton Hill (scale currently unknown)
- Prahran (scale currenlty unknown)
- Preston: Reported 4/3/19 that 26 units to be demolished, replaced by 90 social units and 417 private units)
Will new housing be the same size as the housing it replaces?
The Victorian Labor government have indicated they intend to focus on building apartments with fewer bedrooms, generally 1- and 2- bedroom units. In some estates this will mean that 3-bedroom or larger units will be demolished and replaced with smaller units. Final numbers have not been released by the government, but it appears likely that the total number of public bedrooms on several estates would decrease as a result of Labor's sell-off plans.
What is the difference between public and community housing?
Public housing is managed and owned by the government. Community housing is managed by a not-for-profit organisation, but it could either be owned by the government or by the not-for-profit.
Labor has said that public housing residents’ rent and rights will remain the same if they are transferred to community housing. This includes secure tenure. However, community housing models require them to take 25 per cent fewer residents who fall into the highest needs category. Residents living in community housing will be expected to apply for Commonwealth rent assistance, which will be directed towards the housing provider.
Labor has announced that at least 4,000 public housing homes will be transferred to the community housing sector. It is not yet confirmed whether homes rebuilt as part of estate development deals will be included in this figure.
Does changing housing mix actually work?
Part of the Victorian Labor government’s justification for putting private housing on public housing estates is an argument that mixing public and private apartments reduces stigma and crime through a greater level of neighbourhood integration and social inclusion.
There is no evidence that this works.
A recent Melbourne University report into the 2005 Carlton public housing redevelopment found that the public-private mix handed $300 million to developers, while concentrating disadvantage.
All of the buildings built as part of the redevelopment are separated according to whether the tenants are public or private, with separate entrance halls and parking lots and some also facing different streets.
The private residents of apartment buildings on Lygon and Rathdowne streets even have exclusive access to a garden courtyard that residents in the neighbouring public building can only look at from their balconies.
Public tenants are also separated from this garden by a 1.8 metre wall.
The Carlton report found that the housing mix argument is merely a thinly veiled attempt to cover up the politically unacceptable practice of displacing tenants and selling the land they lived on to developers.
What will it take to fix Victoria’s housing crisis?
According to Professor Terry Burke at Swinburne University, over the next 15 years an additional 31,000 dwellings are needed just to keep total stock at the current level of 3.5%. Another 53,000 are needed to cover the priority housing list, and another 101,000 are needed for people on the housing register.
The Victorian Labor government’s proposed 10 per cent increase on selected inner city estates is clearly not enough.
What is the Greens alternative?
The Greens are pushing for serious investment in public housing, as well as action on private housing like rent control. The Greens took a costed policy of building 40,000 homes in 6 years to the 2018 Victorian election.
Read the Victorian Greens' plan for housing: https://victoria.greens.org.au/housing
What is the outcome for developers?
Developers stand to make huge profits as a result of the sell-offs, while giving poor returns to government and the public.
Under Labor's model, developers are handed control over the estates, and are able to build large amounts of for-profit housing which can be sold on the private market. The condition placed on them is that they are required to build a certain number of social units as they do so. Past experience shows that this model grossly favours developers over the public interest. A Parliamentary Inquiry into the sell-offs found that when developers were offered this deal in previous redevelopments in Kensington and Carlton, they ultimately paid the state a mere 5% of the market value of the land.
What will the estates look like after the redevelopments?
The Victorian Labor government intends to significantly increase the density of each public housing estate. Walk-up residences will likely be replaced with towers. Preliminary plans floated by the government show 5-18 storey buildings built close together, with a huge reduction in open space.
Will there be more public transport to accommodate the increase in density?
The Victorian Labor government has not announced an increase in public transport services to accommodate increased numbers.
What will be the impact on neighbourhood amenity for remaining residents?
Plans vary across estates, but what has emerged in preliminary plans released so far is a great increase in density. In several areas this appears likely to mean a loss of green open space, trees, playgrounds or sports facilities.
Labor have also indicated intention to avoid overshadowing, but there is no guarantee of this.
On several estates the amount of parking available to residents is likely to be reduced, and will be less than the amount of parking provided for new private tenants. Residents have expressed fears that this could lead to the situation experienced following the Carlton redevelopment where many public housing residents have faced mounting parking fines.
When will residents need to leave their homes?
While information remains unclear for many residents, residents in some areas were told that they would need to leave their homes before the end of 2017, resulting in anxiety and a lack of certainty. Some estates are now empty or have few residents remaining. The Victorian Labor government has not clearly said which residents will need to move, nor from which estates.
What will happen to residents whose homes are demolished?
The Victorian Labor government has said some of the estates will be demolished and rebuilt in stages. Residents will be temporarily relocated in empty apartments within their estate if available or in some instances in nearby public housing. Otherwise they will stay in other housing nearby provided by the office of housing. Labor did not say which estates will be developed in stages.
Labor promised that all public housing residents will be able to return to their estates. But this may not include families that are larger than the proposed apartment sizes can accommodate.
How can I take action to stop the sell-off of public housing land?
Sign the petition above, and get involved with the residents’ action group at your local estate.
What will be the impact on the community?
Residents are concerned the Victorian Labor government’s plans will break up the local communities that the elderly and single parents particularly rely on.
Public housing residents and their supporters are already taking action in their neighbourhoods to stand up for public housing.
The Public Housing Defence Network is a coalition of residents, supporters and community groups pushing for more public housing, not sell-offs. Fortnightly coordination meetings happen at 6:30pm on Monday nights at North Carlton Railway House, 20 Solly Ave, North Carlton. Current meeting nights are the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. All welcome.
Can you help out with leafleting in your local area? Sign up here.
The Greens will always stand up for public housing. Take action to stand up for public housing by volunteering.