Submission to the Social Housing Renewal Standing Advisory Committee at Planning Panels Victoria

Today IMCL, represented by our CEO Dan Stubbs, made a submission to the Social Housing Renewal Standing Advisory Committee at Planning Panels Victoria. 

The Committee has been convened to provide advice on the suitability of planning proposals concerning the renewal and redevelopment of existing public housing estates to increase the supply of social housing.

One of the proposed sites is a public housing estate in our catchment on Abbotsford Street in North Melbourne. 

We previously made a written submission about the proposal, citing a number of concerns which were emphasised by our CEO in his oral submissions today:

  • There will be considerable disruptions for existing tenants, eroding community ties and access to social services that create stability for already vulnerable people. 
  • There are insufficient assurances that the proposal will indeed lead to an increase of social housing properties, and in any event a 10% increase is grossly insufficient given the tens of thousands of people on the waiting list. 
  • The shift from public housing to social housing will mean many tenants may move back to having a new, less publicly accountable landlord and probably fewer tenancy rights.  
  • Whilst it has been recommended that there should be mixed tenures scattered throughout the site, there is no clear plan about how this mix of public and private dwellings will be arranged. Despite similar assurances at other completed sites (like at the Carlton Housing Estate), these recommendations were ultimately not implemented. We believe the private developer will be unlikely to want to mix too many social housing properties with private tenants due to a perception that this would lower the value of the private units. 
  • The proposal to reduce parking will mean inadequate parking arrangements for residents, leading to more infringement notices. This in turn would lead to an increase in enforcement costs for the Melbourne City Council and put a strain on the already stretched resources of community legal centres like IMCL. In previous submissions we have outlined the administrative and financial burden of the infringements process.

Dan described the mood at the hearing as positive and uplifting, saying:

“locals who live around this public housing complex were wonderfully supportive of the need for public housing to stay and expand at Abbotsford St.

One person said that these tenants are a part of the fabric of the local community. This area is not just some inner city suburb. It’s a village with a diversity of people.

The locals told some beautiful stories of long-term residents of the Abbotsford St flats, how they painted and decorated their own flats, did their own maintenance and generally looked after their places like a home they owned.”

The experience of one of our client’s, Lucy, puts a human face to these issues, showing the very real impact on the day-to-day life of residents. After enduring many years family violence, Lucy and her four young children escaped an abusive partner. For a period of time they were homeless but eventually she found stable public housing on an estate. However, she was continually competing for parking spaces with visitors and others who were not residents of the estate. She was forced to park on the streets and kept getting parking tickets. With four young children it was impossible for her to continually move her car. The fines started to mount up. By the time she came to us, she had thousands of dollars of parking fines. While IMCL assisted Lucy to get a parking permit to allow her to park on the street, she still has to pay off her previous fines and this will be a burden on her for months to come and will limit her capacity to provide for her young family. The proposal will only expose more vulnerable people to experiences like this.