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Adjournment: Collingwood public housing estate

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
22 February 2022

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Housing, and my ask is that the minister meet with residents urgently from the Collingwood public housing estate on Wellington Street to understand and hear their concerns about the government’s plans to build over their scarce open recreational space.

Over the weekend I joined public housing residents in Collingwood as they met to protest the government’s plans to override the community and build private housing over the open space that they rely on for fresh air and recreation for their children. The government has announced its plans to provide more social housing in Collingwood by building 150 social and affordable homes on existing open space on this public housing estate. While we all want to see more social housing urgently to address Victoria’s housing crisis, the government should not pit two social goods into competition with each other and create a false choice for the community, who know that the much-needed housing can easily be built close by elsewhere.

You do not have to go far from the site to blocks of state government owned land that are being sold to private developers for mega profits rather than being used for urgent public housing—and for this housing. Instead the government is insisting that the new homes will be located on the open space on the estate, which is currently home to a basketball court, a children’s playground and trees and green space. Many of the families who live on the estate spoke to me about already living in overcrowded conditions and relying on the open space on the estate as a reprieve and an escape from their cramped homes. It is also an important recreation and community space where residents come together and enjoy fresh air and sunshine.

In fact it is a precious bit of open space in a suburb that is sorely lacking in it. Collingwood has just 0.3 per cent of open space, compared with the City of Yarra’s average of 13.5 per cent. But this proposal will destroy this space by building two new apartment buildings over the open areas. To add insult to injury, the new homes will not even be the kind of public housing that Collingwood so desperately needs. There will be one apartment block of affordable housing, which are privately marketed homes that charge slightly lower than market rates; and one block of social housing, which will most likely be community housing. Meanwhile the government is essentially taking away much-loved open space and community amenities from the existing residents and handing them to developers for profit.

It is at a time like this when we truly see the contempt with which this government treats public housing residents. Residents have been campaigning to save the open space since this project was announced in June, but the government has ignored their asks and simply refused to budge on its plans. As a landlord the government must do better, but it has been steadily turning its back on public housing, abandoning its responsibility to provide public housing as a public service and steadily shifting this over to the private sector. Even today the term ‘public housing’ has largely fallen out of use, with the government using the umbrella term of ‘social housing’ to disguise their complete neglect of our public housing. Yarra City Council and Collingwood public housing residents have pointed out that there is other publicly owned land in the area that could be more suited. I urge the minister to save the open space at the Collingwood public housing estate and work with the residents and council to find an alternative location for the 150 homes.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
22 February 2022
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