A parliamentary inquiry into Victoria’s Public Housing Renewal Program (PHRP) revealed the previous redevelopment in Kensington decreased the total amount of public and community houses by 36 percent and the number of bedrooms by 54 percent, leaving Melbourne-based housing support service Home at Last ‘appalled’.
It also exposed the selling off of public land for private development for just 5 percent of its market value.
Home at Last Client Services Manager, April Bragg labelled the current state of Victoria’s public housing system as ‘outrageous’.
The not-for-profit community organisation is frustrated at the affect the $185 million program has had on the public housing waitlist, due to the poor management of the relocation of existing public tenants.
“We have over 82,000 people on the public housing waitlist, growing by 500 every month and all the government has effectively done is make the existing stock prettier,” she says.
“We absolutely support the refurbishment of dilapidated stock, but it must not reduce the number of affordable homes and bedrooms while giving away public land forever. That’s madness!”
Home at Last has provided homes for an average of 12 vulnerable older people per month over the last five years, however, this has been reduced to 4 people a month following the redevelopments.
At present, 60 percent of public housing earmarked for people aged over 55, however, many elderly tenants are unable to live there due to accessibly issues presented by multi-level infrastructure.
“We had high hopes the renewals would result in less older people in housing stress, but this program and its poor planning has made the situation worse,” Ms Bragg says.
She explains while it used to take between 1-3 months to house older people in need of a roof over their heads, the average wait-time for people of the highest priority is now over 12 months.
“It’s not good enough,” she says.
A number of recommendations highlighted in the inquiry have been directed to the Department of Health and Human Services for action.
Of these, Home at Last commended the following;
the PHRP provide a clear and substantial increase in affordable housing
the PHRP results in a decrease to the public housing waitlist
current tenants are adequately consulted about the PHRP
The price paid for public land is made public knowledge.
With public housing waitlists the worst they have ever been, housing services alike hope the inquiry will force the Federal Government into investing in housing security for vulnerable, elderly Australians.
“We hope the Government will commit to building new public housing and putting in place an Older Person’s Housing Strategy,” Ms Bragg says.