Public housing tenants protest eviction plans

Tenants and supporters rally at the Northcote public housing estate on June 24.
June 30, 2017

Eighty tenants and supporters rallied at the Northcote public housing estate on June 24 to protest plans to evict the tenants and demolish their homes.

Northcote is one of nine public housing estates the Victorian Labor government wants to demolish. It wants to sell the land to private developers who would build high rise units. Some "social housing" would also be built.

Addressing the rally, Aboriginal activist and public housing tenant Viv Malo linked the planned evictions to the history of dispossession of Aboriginal people.

Trent McCarthy, a Greens member of Darebin council, which covers Northcote, reported the council had opposed the plan. He spoke of the need to "defend and extend public housing", including in inner suburbs such as Northcote.

Will Glenn, a resident of the estate, said the government had failed to maintain the buildings. Nevertheless, he said, "I love living here".

Glenn said that the government has promised residents could return once rebuilding is completed, but such promises cannot be trusted. In the former Preston public housing estate, buildings were knocked down in 2011, but no new housing has been built.

Glenn said under the government's plan for the Northcote estate, three-bedroom units will be replaced by one- and two-bedroom units, which are too small for many of the families that live there now.

Eileen, a resident who has lived in the Northcote estate for 39 years, spoke of the stress of "living in limbo", with an uncertain future.

Steve Jolly, a socialist member of Yarra council, said there has been "systematic under-funding of the refurbishment of public housing". He said that refurbishment should be done in a staged way, so that people can stay on the estate while the work is done.

Jolly said that under the current plan, tenants will be sent to "god knows where", and will need to apply to come back. Most will never return. He said the proposed "social housing" will be more expensive than public housing and tenants will be able to be evicted more easily.

Jolly spoke of the need for a "massive campaign" by public housing tenants and supporters. Building unions should be asked to impose work bans.

Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance councillor in Moreland, spoke about the West Brunswick public housing estate, which is also targeted for demolition and redevelopment. She reported that some residents are planning to refuse to move, and that a public meeting is planned for July 15.

Bolton said there needs to be a "massive expansion of public housing". Rejecting government attempts to stigmatise public housing, she said public housing estates are "real communities". If there are problems they need more support.

Mel Gregson spoke of the successful campaign to defeat the former Liberal government's plan to take open space around the Fitzroy and North Richmond public housing estates and sell it to developers.

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