By Councillor Stephen Jolly
Last month officers from the Housing Department of the Victorian State Government asked for a meeting with Yarra Councillors. At the meeting, they outlined a plan to initiate a ‘Public Private Partnership’ (PPP) on three large public housing estates in Melbourne, two of them in Yarra.
They will be seeking private investment to build private units on public land plus some refurbishment of existing public housing stock. Officers pledged the PPP would not lead to a reduction in public housing units, but left open the option of using existing open space to build the private apartments.
The three estates are all in expensive inner city areas. No doubt it is planned for the new private units to have city views in order to maximise their selling price for the investors.
This announcement follows on from a similar development at the Carlton public housing estate which was undertaken by the previous, ALP State government and the private investors Becton.
At this development a brick wall will be built to separate public and private homes. Initially this wall was to go through the estates’ only playground until a resident rally forced a slight readjustment.
Therefore the gentle peeps of opposition from local ALP member and ex-Housing Minister, Richard Wynne, were dismissed as highly hypocritical by locals.
Since hearing of the plan, the Socialist Party has immediately moved into action. We have already held meetings with leading residents to formulate a campaign. In early October we held public meetings on the Fitzroy and North Richmond estates to explain the threat posed by the Government and to begin to mobilise opposition on the ground.
On the Fitzroy estate the mood is one of anger and a willingness to oppose the government. On the North Richmond estate it is slightly different. The parts of the estate targeted for the PPP are at the centre of the heroin trade. Some residents are so demoralised by living next to this industry that they desperately hope that the building of new private apartments might make the authorities take the problem more seriously.
The Socialist Party fully supports money being spent on the estates but rather than selling off public land to private developers we need to see the expansion of public housing and the improvement of existing stock.
We need to fast track the refurbishment of old public housing units and repair the crumbling estate infrastructure such as the ancient laundries and the dodgy lifts. We need youth centres on all the estates and work needs to be done to clean up the rising damp and the rat and cockroach infestations.
Rather than investing in what the public needs the government is instead looking to line the pockets of their big business mates by selling off what is potentially expensive real estate to the private sector.
It is still early days in this campaign but they can be assured that they will face fierce resistance to their plans from both local residents and the Socialist Party.