Rally calls for an end to public housing sell-offs

June 4, 2023
Protesting for public housing. Photo: Jordan A K

Housing activists and MPs gathered on the steps of Victorian Parliament on June 1 to campaign for public housing.

The Retain — Repair — Reinvest rally was organised by Margaret Kelly, a resident of Barak Beacon Estate, and Public Housing — Everybody’s Business (PHEB).

Victorian Greens leader and housing spokesperson Samantha Ratnam and PHEB convener Joe Toscano called on people to pressure Daniel Andrews’ government to abandon its Big Housing Build agenda which is being rolled out through Homes Victoria.

“Homes Victoria’s business plan is responsible for masses of public housing stock being sold off to property developers,” Toscano said.

This is what’s happening at the Barak Beacon Housing Estate, where a meagre supply of social housing — intermixed with private housing — is being proposed in place of existing public housing.

Margaret Kelly, a resident of Barak Beacon Housing Estate, criticised housing minister Colin Brooks for not having seriously engaged with the Retain — Repair — Reinvest strategy.

This is being offered as an alternative to the government’s pro-developer Big Housing Build and aims to substantially increase the public housing stock for 100,000 Victorians each year.

Kelly spoke about the distinction between public housing — which is publicly owned and managed — and other types of housing such as “social”, “community”, “inclusive” and “affordable”.

The variety that is not public housing is often privately owned and managed, and involves a profit motive. The conflation of these categories has been used to camouflage government moves to privatise public housing.

Kelly, who has received a notice to vacate, concluded the rally by requesting a meeting with Brooks.

The rally called for laws to cap the number of properties that can be negatively geared to dissuade property developers.

Speakers noted how the privatisation of public housing and land is tied to the degradation of other essential services, such as utilities and aged care.

[Weekly vigils will be held on the steps of the Victorian Parliament every Thursday at 12pm until June 29.]

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