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Champagne Socialist
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Developers may face low-cost housing levy
By Royce Millar
City editor
April 11, 2005

Melbourne developers may soon have to put aside a proportion of new housing stock for low-cost homes under a controversial scheme to help avert a Sydney-style housing crisis.

With affordability looming as an obstacle for Government planning blueprint Melbourne 2030, Planning Minister Rob Hulls has confirmed Labor will look at new ways to increase low-cost accommodation, including a social housing levy scheme known as inclusionary zoning.

"There is a real opportunity to have developers contribute further to social justice objectives in new developments, and this is something I'll be having a look at in the future with the Housing Minister," Mr Hulls said.

Inclusionary zoning is used widely in Britain and parts of the US. It allows councils to require developers to either contribute a percentage of new homes for low-cost housing or pay the equivalent in cash to build social housing elsewhere.

The idea has widespread backing in academic, planning and local government circles. Lord Mayor John So is an enthusiastic supporter, but the Opposition and parts of the housing industry would be likely to campaign against what they see as a tax on development.

It is not yet clear how the system might operate in Melbourne. Senior planning consultant Marcus Spiller has argued for it only in the inner city, where housing is least affordable. Others, including Swinburne University senior researcher Terry Burke, say the levy should be applied more widely. Professor Burke is believed to have proposed a levy on developers in a report to a Government taskforce on affordability.

He would not comment on the confidential report, but said rising prices were driving lower-income Melburnians to areas with few job or education opportunities.

"This means you start to get dysfunction in the labour market, and that starts to affect the economy," Professor Burke said.

South Australia is introducing a type of inclusionary zoning requiring 10 per cent of homes to be for people on low incomes and 5 per cent for those with special needs.

Victorian Housing Minister Candy Broad acknowledged Melbourne had a housing affordability problem and said the Government needed to act to avoid a Sydney-style headache.

"Inclusionary zoning is a planning mechanism we do need to examine as a government because it has been used in a number of places to assist with delivering more affordable housing," she said.

Cr So said he supported inclusionary zoning to ensure social diversity in the inner city. Affordable housing gave Melbourne an edge over Sydney and was an important part of its liveability, he said.

The scheme is also backed by the Victorian Council of Social Service. Acting chief executive Bev Kliger said it would not cost the taxpayer but would "increase the Government's capacity to negotiate and encourage the private sector to provide affordable housing".

But Housing Industry Association executive director Graham Wolfe said inclusionary zoning was a tax that would be passed on to buyers. "Should the buyers of new houses and apartments pay or should it (social housing) be a broader community responsibility?" he asked.

Ms Kliger said developers could be rewarded for contributing to social housing through "density bonuses" allowing more dwellings in projects than would normally be permitted.

But Mr Wolfe said such a system would reduce certainty.

The State Opposition is likely to oppose a social housing levy. Planning spokesman Ted Baillieu said Labor had imposed too many infrastructure and service charges on developers.


High-rise flats set for a makeover
April 11, 2005

Fitzroy's commission flats.
Photo: Michael Clayton-Jone

Melbourne's high-rise and walk-up "commission flats" have been a characteristic feature of the inner city for decades. Pilloried as ghettos and incubators for drugs and violence, they have survived 40 years of stigma and neglect while providing affordable housing for thousands of Victorians.

But if Housing Minister Candy Broad has her way, the old estates will change. Broad says she wants to redevelop all the old estates in partnership with private developers.

One estate, in Kensington, has already had been redeveloped. In a project initiated by the Kennett government and completed by the Bracks Government in partnership with developer Becton, one high-rise tower was demolished in 1998 to make way for a mix of private and public housing.

About 18 months ago, the Government announced it would look at the Carlton estate on Lygon and Rathdowne streets. It is still consulting tenants and the Melbourne City Council. Work has not yet started.

Broad now acknowledges a master plan is also being prepared on the large North Richmond estate between Lennox and Church streets. It is not yet clear exactly what "redevelopment" will involve, but she says it will include public and private housing on the Kensington model.

Broad promises there will be no reduction in the number of public-housing dwellings on any of the estates.

A 2001 report by the church-based group Ecumenical Housing called for the State Government to either spend $800 million over 10 years to resurrect the high-rise buildings or knock them down.

The report warned that without a major renovation and a review of their management, the flats would become uninhabitable.

The flourishing of private high-rise apartment towers in areas such as Southbank and the Docklands has challenged the notion that high-rises are for the poor only. The arrival of the newcomers has also lessened the impetus for demolition.

Property developers covet the position and views of the Atherton Gardens estate in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, and Nelson Place in Williamstown. High-rise flats provide low-cost housing and community networks that are close to public transport and services. And with about 16 per cent of high-rise tenants born in Australia, the flats form the heart of multicultural Melbourne.

Escalating inner-city property prices have highlighted not only the value of the estate land but also the cost of replacement.

To replace the flats with lower-rise apartments would cost well in excess of $1 billion, whereas refurbishment would be much cheaper. Keeping and renovating the flats could save the Government money.


Big revamp planned for old high-rise flats
By Royce Millar
City editor
April 11, 2005

Elisabeth Coldicutt, 81, is happy to live in a ninth-floor public housing flat in Northcote and is wary of private developers having a role in any redevelopment.
Photo: James Boddington

All of Melbourne's ageing high-rise and walk-up Housing Commission estates will be redeveloped and private housing interspersed with public housing, under plans by Housing Minister Candy Broad.

In an interview with The Age, Ms Broad said it was "vital" the old estates were revamped to improve the housing and social conditions for tenants and surrounding neighbourhoods.

Already the Kensington estate has been reworked under a scheme hatched by the Kennett government and involving a partnership with developer Becton. The Bracks Government has also announced plans for the Carlton estate, including demolition of the Rathdowne Street walk-up flats.

Ms Broad said that, as in Kensington, private developers would play a key role in future redevelopments. She said there were "a lot of lessons" from the Kensington project and the Government could get better results "financially as well as socially" from future projects.

In particular, Ms Broad noted that the number of public housing units declined at Kensington. She said it was her ambition to increase public housing numbers in future redevelopments.

The minister's office refused to say whether redevelopment means demolition of high-rise buildings. One tower was razed at Kensington.

However, wholesale demolition of high-rises seems unlikely due to the high cost of replacing stock. More likely is that new apartments will be built on the grounds of the estates.

This is likely to be controversial with public tenant groups, which also fear the Government wants to hand over estate management to new independent housing associations. They say this could lead to higher rents.

Elisabeth Coldicutt, 81, has lived happily in her ninth-level flat at Northcote since 2000.

In particular, she loves the "breathtakingly beautiful" view over the Merri Creek valley to the city. But she is worried that she may lose her flat if the Government hands control to devel-opers and housing associations.

At present public tenants pay a maximum of 25 per cent of their income on rent. The housing associations' more "flexible" rent policies allow them to recover costs fully.

Asked how she felt about a private developer playing a role at Northcote, Ms Coldicutt said: "Spare us, spare us. We're likely to get better service from the Government's dreary old housing bureaucrats than from those out to make a quick dollar."

· Ms Broad yesterday said the Government would build 100 units of social housing near activity hubs identified in the planning blueprint, Melbourne 2030.

More articles:

Getting our houses in order

Lord Melbourne
4,361 Posts
Intresting, i hope they tear them down and replace them with better looking non identicle ones, or at least give them a refurb and try not to make them look like clones.

but the land they are sitting on must be worth a bit. time will tell.

323 Posts
“In particular, she loves the "breathtakingly beautiful" view over the Merri Creek valley to the city.”

It is the "breathtakingly beautiful" view that these commie blocks provide which I am most afraid of losing. I understand the benefits of refurbishing etc, such as reduced crime, better looking buildings and better living conditions for the inhabitants, but then it will be a hell of a lot harder to get to the top of the buildings without having to explain yourself to security and getting permission from the Office of Housing.

It used to be (and still is for some - thankfully) just a matter of walking in and pressing the highest level on the elevator. The only downside being the dirty windows and the potentially dangerous people. Now, one must get ‘permission’ to go up – pfft!

I’m probly just selfishly rambling on. Yes, these housing estates have to be improved. Yes, they look rather ugly. BUT, by improving them, the general public loses unique and mostly fantastic views of the city.

The one in South Melbourne, near Albert Park is my favourite.
Same (I need not say why), but it sticks out like dog’s balls if you ask me (hence the magnificent view it has):

(on the left)
I don't know who took it.

127 Posts
Yeah the one at fitzroy is full of scum and litter. Interestingly the low rise next door is full of grandmas...... We need low cost housing but the mentally ill and handicapped? what to do?
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