Privatisation of Public Housing in Victoria

From Lew Wheeler

The decision by the Victorian State Government to sell off huge areas of publicly owned land and the demolition of public housing walk-ups on 9 inner-city public housing estates under their so-called Stage 1 Public Housing Renewal Program is privatisation.

The government is walking away from its responsibility to own and manage affordable public housing (i.e. 25% of household income) for those unable to afford private market rents yet need a safe, secure and affordable rental home. If no ‘affordable’ housing is available then stay homeless.
The government is evicting public housing tenants from their homes for indefinite periods of time and with no relocation details (when, where, how long).
Tenants are told to start packing to move out by year’s end.
Under Stage 1, privatisation happens both through the sell-off of land to private for profit developers with a mere 10% increase in ‘social’ housing in return and through the transfer of some 4,000 public housing titles to private community housing agencies. It is wrong because:
sells-off public land that can never be replaced
creates huge crises for families living on those estates
destroys Estate communities’ some built up over decades
studies and experience have shown that developers discriminate against public housing tenants on private estates and removes government responsibility for its people.
The speed and secrecy by which the government is planning to displace masses of vulnerable people (many with disabilities and/or elderly pensioners) is cause for suspicion, and constitutes a very serious Human Rights issue.
Already tenants are reporting that their health is deteriorating. Feedback from public tenants and perusal of government fact-sheets suggests a lack of genuine consultation, and misleading and conflicting information.
Public Housing was introduced after a hard-fought battle to end the slums in the inner city
over 70 years ago. It has been a wonderful program of support for low income families and continues to be so. That it is government run and funded is the most important aspect of this program and one that we should be protecting overwhelmingly. Privatisation has been a disaster around the world and certainly here, and “social/community” housing is simply another form of privatisation. It lets governments off the hook.
Stage 1 seems indifferent to the current need of over 58,000 Victorians either homeless individuals or families (22,773) or waiting often years on public housing waiting lists (35,392)and thousands more paying in excess of 40% of their income in private rental.
The shockingly high numbers of homeless Victorians sleeping rough in the streets, in unsafe rooming houses or couch surfing include 26% of children aged 12 years or under.
These Victorians need affordable public housing now and the expansion of public housing is urgently needed.
FGFP is a founding member of Hands Off Public Housing (HOPH) set up in July 2017 to develop a social justice for housing movement to protect and expand public housing in Victoria.
HOPH is totally opposed to the sale of public housing land to private developers.
The other founding members are Friends of Public Housing Victoria (FOPHV), Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) and the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church (MUPMC). MUPMC initiated this action.
Read about the government’s public housing waiting list and homelessness in Victoria

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