Local News - Victoria

Calls for surplus land to be used for public housing as pandemic bites

The analysis by RMIT University urban researchers shows about 578 hectares of Victorian public land parcels were sold between 2000 and 2018.

Project researcher Liam Davies said the team found about 80 per cent of the land sold to the private sector was in residential areas and could have been used to build up to 11,000 public housing units since 2000.

“Land price is a substantial component of housing, therefore the most cost-effective way to provide public housing is to build on government-owned land,” Mr Davies said.

Meanwhile, the state government has listed more than 100 sites for future sale.

These include former schools in Croydon South, Broadmeadows and Dallas, a former office building in Essendon, the Evo apartment complex in North Melbourne and a former timberyard in Clifton Hill, bought by the previous state government to accommodate the abandoned East West Link tunnel.

Victorian Council of Social Service CEO Emma King said social housing made up only about 3.2 per cent of all housing in Victoria, well below the national average of 4.5 per cent.

“It’s madness having government land doing nothing while thousands of people are homeless,” Ms King said.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne said the Victorian government had invested record amounts in housing for vulnerable Victorians.

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He said this included $209 million in the most recent budget for an additional 1000 public housing properties providing homes for 1800 people.

“Works are also currently under way for the redevelopment of four housing estates which will deliver 450 new dwellings,” Mr Wynne said.

Mr Smith, the opposition housing spokesman, said Labor had been in power for the best part of 20 years and their record on building new public housing was poor.

“Once public land is sold off, it’s gone for good,” Mr Smith said.


“There will be even more pressure on public housing as we rebuild after this pandemic is over. Public housing should be part of the rebuild, but I’ve seen no evidence from the state Labor government that it will be.”

The state government did not respond to a question from The Age on whether social housing would form part of any COVID-19 economic stimulus package.

Last year, the Victorian Greens identified more than 2600 hectares of land being prepared for sale by the government, including one being flagged by University of Melbourne academics as one of the top five state sites to fast track for social and affordable housing.

“These sites – in suburbs like Clifton Hill, Essendon and Footscray – could certainly be used for public housing and must be prioritised over a quick sale to prop up the government’s bottom line,” said Greens leader Samantha Ratnam.

“By selling off land identified as ideal for public housing to developers, the government is prioritising developer profits over people.”

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