Historic public housing sold to highest bidder

Two public housing cottages in Queenscliffe have been sold for $1.2 million. Photo: Julia Burder

The elegant, seaside town of Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria was once a quiet “sleepy hollow”, according to Chris Johnson, a local resident and public housing tenant for 30 years.

But recently the Victorian Office of Housing realised its tenants were sitting on a goldmine. Some tenants have been relocated to shoebox-sized units in less attractive areas.

Meanwhile, on October 9, two heritage-listed pilot cottages owned by the department were sold for $1.2 million.

Socialist Alliance candidate for the Bellarine, Mitch Cherry, told Green Left Weekly: “This is typical of the complete lack of concern the state government has for ordinary people struggling to find affordable housing in regional areas. We were told that the money from the sale probably won't even go into building more housing in the area, let alone the region.”

Public housing is also being sold off in other regional Victorian areas. Maintenance has also been contracted out. This has already led to job losses and a decline in routine maintenance. Johnson told GLW no external maintenance had been done to her house in more than 25 years.

Cherry said: “Public housing is shifting from mainly government-owned housing to social housing managed by ‘not-for-profit’ organisations. This is really a form of privatisation while the government offloads the cost of administrating and maintaining its housing stock.

“The cost of housing for those who can least afford it will inevitably increase once smaller organisations — no matter how well-meaning — take over such a large and complex enterprise. We must stop this privatisation by stealth.”