Melbourne's Public Housing Debate

Melbourne's public housing has been a hot topic of conversation in the newspapers lately. At the core of this is the question, should our public housing estates be redeveloped to include a mix of public and private housing?  According to The Age, the brief also includes proposals for commercial development on space within the estates.  The article also mentions that the estates mentioned in the brief are in North Richmond and Fitzroy - some seriously valuable inner urban real estate.

Mixing private and public housing is not new.  This has already been put into practice in developments in Melbourne, such as Kensington.  The theory is that social integration removes the stigma often attached to public housing and can improve the condition of the neighbourhood.  According to a paper from the University of NSW, the fundamental argument for mixing public and private housing is that "by reducing concentrations  of disadvantaged residents through tenure mix the  dysfunctional behaviours associated with a concentration of poverty are dissipated".  The paper goes on to say that when this is used as a strategy by Governments, without thorough consultation with tenants and 'high quality' urban planning, it can often fail, or have a negative effect.  Read more both in support and against this theory here and here.

In the latest proposal, it is suggested that no public dwellings will be lost (or relocated), however, to make a 50/50 mix of public and private residents, and to include potential commercial space, there are concerns that open space on site will be lost.  Concerns have also been raised about the motives of the redevelopment.

This proposal opens up a whole range of questions; is it about social integration to create more cohesive cities?  Is it an attempt to bring in more cash?  How much open space is enough on these estates? And surely each estate is different, and what suits one could be a problem in another.  Will an individual approach be taken into account?  To what extent will the community have a say in the process?

The brief itself was leaked to the press, it's not publicly available.  Click here for the original article in The Age, and subsequent ones here and here.  Here is some info on the earlier Kensington Estate redevelopment.


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