Hands Off Public housing (HOPH) Victoria is calling for you to ask your local councils if they support public housing. This is an urgent request because a massive change is underway.

The Victorian Government is currently rolling out a so-called Stage 1 Public Housing Renewal Program but in fact this is privatization. HOPH has been told that up to 75% of public housing land – prime real estate – is be sold-off at a discount to market-based private developers to demolish and rebuild with a mix of ‘social housing’, private apartments and some commercial development.

The government is also transferring the management of 4,000 public housing properties to community housing providers.

The Government is looking for this redevelopment to be cost neutral. If this sell-off goes ahead it will be a massive windfall profit for those developers winning the contracts with public housing estates located in nine prime inner-city locations: Ascot Vale, Brighton, Brunswick West, Clifton Hill, Hawthorn, Heidleburg West, Northcote, North Melbourne and Prahran. http://www.vic.gov.au/affordablehousing/social-housing/building-and-upgrading-new-houses.html; see also http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/estates-to-be-demolished-and-sold-in-developer-deals-to-rebuild-public-housing-20170524-gwcinb.html

It is not in the public interest to sell-off these prime public assets and it is not in the interests of public housing tenants who do not have a written guarantee that they will return to their former location or in a home with the same number of bedrooms. There is only an pledge to return not a right of return!

The Victorian Department of Human Services reports that this renewal will result in a 10 per cent increase of ‘social housing’ homes at each location. Do not be hoodwinked by this meagre 10 per cent increase. Social Housing includes both community housing and public housing so the 10 per cent does not necessarily mean it is public housing. It could be any per cent up to 10 per cent.

‘Community housing’ is set to have transferred the management of 4,000 public housing properties with the Government remaining in ownership for the moment.

Community Housing is not the same as Public Housing. The rules and regulations of these very different types of rental housing differ markedly. For instance, public housing tenants rent is calculated on 25 per cent of their total household income and this can be varied up or down according to this income and if tenants lose paid work or take ill the rent goes down and stays down until total household income circumstances improve. By comparison, some community housing providers set rents at 30 or 35 per cent of total household income but rents may go down only for a limited time a hardship clause provision.

Unlike Public Housing, Community Housing providers are private landlords and you can be put on contracts of 3, 6 and 12 months and there can be unexpected changes when you sign a new contract. In addition, you can be made to leave without your landlord having to give a reason. You are protected from this in Public Housing.

The Community Housing Ltd (CHL) group of companies, for example, report that outside of rental agreements with State, Federal or investors “CHL makes every attempt to develop and manage housing which is affordable. CHL sets rents based at no less than 25% of gross household income, plus any Commonwealth Rent Assistance paid to the tenant by Centrelink should they be eligible, up to a maximum level no higher than market rent of the type of property.” http://chl.org.au/wp-content/uploads/POLHOUHRS06-14-6-Rent-Setting-Policy.pdf

This is not ‘affordable housing’ for people on low incomes including those on low wages, with a disability, pensioners, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, refugees, migrants, those with a mental illness, unemployed , fleeing domestic violence and sole parents or at risk of homelessness.

A large proportion of tenants are single or sole parents, the majority of whom are women.

HOPH knows that for people on low-incomes public housing is the only long-term housing option that is affordable and sustainable. There is no alternative.

HOPH has called for a moratorium to allow the Victorian State government time to consider the Federal Government’s commitment to privatization of our public housing stock and its lack of concern or regard for vulnerable Australians needing affordable public housing – 25% of household income. It is driving the push to privatise public housing in Victoria as elsewhere in Australia.

HOPH asks that you ACT NOW:
1. ASK your local councils if they support public housing and if they do
2. Endorse HOPH calls for a moratorium