Prime public housing estates to include private units

Prime real estate in the old low-rise public housing tenements in some of Melbourne’s most affluent suburbs will be opened up to the private market as part of a massive redevelopment of social housing.

Public housing properties in highly sought-after spots including Prahran, Clifton Hill, Brighton, Brunswick, Northcote and Hawthorn will be upgraded as part of the Andrews government’s $185 million plan.

The government has promised to increase social housing by at least 10 per cent on 1100 properties across nine sites, which are mostly four-storey developments that have become dilapidated.

But private units will be included in the rebuild, the government has confirmed.

Demand for social housing has boomed in recent years as Melbourne’s rents skyrocket.

The waiting list for social housing exceeded 55,000 for the September quarter of this year.

Housing Minister Martin Foley said including private units on current public estates would be an important part of expanding the number of social housing dwellings.

“We have to look to capture the value of our land,” he said. “These are very valuable assets and we will leverage that value to maintain that public housing component.”

Mr Foley said many public housing estates were ideally located, close to public transport and schools.

He said mixed communities would also break down the cycles of disadvantage by encouraging relationships between low-income residents and their neighbours buying into the private properties onsite.

Mr Foley said the low-rise estates, known as “walk-ups”, urgently needed upgrading.

“They are more expensive to maintain, as bad as they are, than to start again.”

It is not yet clear how many private units will be built on current public housing estates.

Work is expected to start in 2018 on the first of the redevelopments after planning and consultation with residents.

Victorian Public Tenants Association described the walk-up flats as “outdated, dilapidated and obsolete”. It said the walk-ups built with concrete panels were incredibly hot in summer and cold in winter.

The association’s spokesman Raoul Wainwright said the public housing sector had endured two decades of “sustained underinvestment”.

He said tenants who paid rent for older, crumbling walk-up flats were not getting value for money.

The government has also identified 52 vacant parcels of land that will be used to build almost 100 new public housing properties. The properties are in 13 suburbs in the west, including Altona, Braybrook, Maidstone and Norlane.

The government has committed $60 million to increasing public housing on land currently owned by the Director of Housing.

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