Public housing program risks reducing homes for vulnerable groups: report

A new report evaluating the Victorian Government’s program to redevelop inner suburban public housing estates says the plan may reduce the amount of homes available for vulnerable households.

Evaluating the claims and framework of the Public Housing Renewal Program (PHRP), researchers from RMIT found the program is more likely to negatively impact on public housing residents, with private developers winning big from this deal.

Co-author of the report Understanding the assumptions and impacts of the Victorian Public Housing Renewal Program, Professor Libby Porter from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research said the PHRP is driven by a ‘real estate’ model which flies in the face of the housing crisis.

“While 84,000 Victorians languish on the waiting list for access to public housing, the PHRP reduces the amount of actual public housing available to them and others in housing need,” she said.

“What we have here is the State withdrawing from its responsibility to provide a fundamental human right.

The PHRP is based on a model of renewal that enables private developers to build new market housing on public housing estates and transfers public housing to community housing providers.

“This will reduce the amount of public housing on these estates to zero” Porter said.

“This is extremely worrying because it results in the permanent loss of public land and housing in high amenity areas – exactly where housing for people in need should be located.”

Other concerns facing PHRP is the development of new private market housing on public housing sites and the displacement of vulnerable households from areas of high amenity.

“The fact is for redevelopment to occur, current tenants will need to be relocated from these estates,” Porter said.

“The evidence shows that relatively few residents will be able to return.

“Displacement causes significant negative effects including stress and poor health, loss of vital community networks, and long-term mental health impacts.”

Porter and co-author Dr David Kelly urge the Victorian Government to reconsider the PHRP framework and instead invest directly into new public housing at a scale that can address the waiting list.

“We know and have seen the severe risks people who experience homelessness face,” Professor Porter said.

“The best way to address this is to significantly increase public housing in well-located areas.”


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