ACTION NEEDED TO DEFEND PUBLIC HOUSING
Letter to MP by Alma Ryrie-Jones
I write to you as my local MP to ask you to add your voice and your personal influence to defend public housing tenants against the Victorian Government’s planned housing policy, which includes disposal of valuable state assets and displacement or eventual eviction of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
It is a disgrace that in a wealthy community like ours the Government is turning assets over to private developers and non government organisations instead of investing in ways to make affordable housing available to those who need it most and the many thousands more who are in practical terms homeless – people who would be living in cars and on the streets but for the kindness of their friends.
The lack of affordable housing is a national problem and COAG has sought to address it through the national agreement on housing. I believe the Victorian plans and the way they are being implemented are a tragic distortion of the national policy intent and an appalling abandonment of the responsibility of government.
It is quite clear from what has happened already that the Victorian actions will not result in more public housing for poor and disadvantaged people. Redevelopment of the Kensington public housing estate, intended to be a model for subsequent inner-city housing management, resulted in a loss of 260 public housing units and was considered poor value for money in a research paper which the government refused to release.
Other projects undertaken have lined the pockets of operators in the market, but failed utterly to address the desperate need for more public housing. Instead public housing is being demolished, sold-off and privatised. And the government has stated its intention to dispose of a further 12,000 public housing properties in future to so-called ‘community housing’.
There has been a disregard for the individual rights of existing public tenants, and the scheme has co-opted and silenced those who traditionally speak up for the poor and look out for their interests: not for profit organisations have become involved and are no longer independent.
It seems that all the players can see their future in the new arrangements, except for the frightened tenants, who do not know whether they will have a home in future, and many thousands more whose needs go unmet.
It is very important that this becomes an electoral issue. I have not met anyone who, once they have looked closely at what the government is doing in the guise of ‘social and community housing’ is not appalled by it.
Public housing is a public good. Please consider advocating for more and better investment by government, for the direct benefit of the citizens who need it, and for the long-term benefit of the whole community.
All the research indicates that one of the most important social factors in general health and mental health is the quality and security of housing. If we lose the critical asset of the existing public housing stock, which the community and the tenants have already paid for, the community will pay a social cost, many times over.
(Ms) Alma Ryrie-Jones