Barak Beacon Estate residents speak up against demolition

April 23, 2023
Barak Beacon Estate in Port Melbourne. Photo: Reg Macey

Margaret Kelly, a resident of the Barak Beacon Estate in Port Melbourne, told Green Left Radio she was angry with the Labor government’s decision to abandon its commitment to public housing.

“The stated purpose of public housing was to provide people with a secure home, but apparently, they’ve decided that’s not their purpose anymore,” Kelly said.

She pointed out that Homes Victoria has failed to find appropriate accommodation for residents with complex difficulties.

The Daniel Andrews government’s decision to demolish the estate underscores the deepening housing crisis and soaring inequality in the country.

It comes despite a study showing that refurbishing the estate could save the government more than $88 million, as well as prevent the distress residents are experiencing from having to move.

Instead, the government is focused on its $5.3 billion Big Housing Build program — social, affordable and private housing.

The Barak Road public housing estate, which was constructed in collaboration with the City of Port Melbourne, features three-story, walk-up buildings with ample open space.

Residents learned of the demolition plan just two weeks before Christmas. The government has yet to provide any details on the new development, or the proportion of social and affordable homes.

This obscurity is emblematic of the growing insecurity many people face and the result of systematic underfunding of public utilities.

According to not-for-profit architectural and research firm Office’s study, refurbishing the estate could add 23 apartments, raise occupancy by 25% and meet the government’s sustainability and access requirements.

Office’s proposal includes the construction of an additional 238 new homes in surrounding open spaces, while preserving public amenities, such as playgrounds and gardens.

Despite such alternative solutions and residents not wanting to move, the demolition plan is set to begin in June.

As the housing crisis deepens, with record-breaking rent increases of up to 10%, and more than 1 million households in housing stress, the demolition of this estate reveals the government’s profit before people approach.

Investing in public housing and ensuring affordable homes for all would mean that vulnerable people, such as Kelly, would not have to deal with the anxieties about not knowing where she will be going to live.

As the demolition date nears, residents and public housing advocates are continuing to campaign for transparent communication and a re-evaluation of this estate’s fate.

[To get involved, visit SAVE BARAK BEACON.]

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