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Tuesday, 29 December 2015


Introducing Howard Marosi - Public housing campaigner

Howard is a Union delegate and skilled negotiator with a broad interest in politics. As a member of Friends of Public Housing Victoria he arranged a meeting with Trades Hall Council, where we gave a presentation on the privatisation by stealth of public housing. 

At that meeting, Trades Hall Council passed a resolution to oppose any further transfers of public housing stock to 'social' and 'community' housing.

Yarra Council has a lot of public housing. In June 2012, there was an unanimous decision by Yarra Council which opposed further transfers of desperately needed Public Housing to Housing Associations and Community Housing Organizations. Yarra Council was alarmed at how much public housing they stood to lose. Moreland Council passed a similar resolution.

The Napthine Liberal Government announced that it was intending to transfer 12,000 public housing properties to Community Housing Organizations. Now, the Andrews Labor Government has declared that it is prepared to privatize an unspecified amount of public housing, handing over first the management, with a view to transferring titles later.

Before the last election, the Greens had a policy of "no privatization of Victoria`s public housing assets". The newly elected Green MP in Prahran, Sam Hibbins, won by such a narrow margin that it is likely that the Public Tenant vote got him over the line, particularly as the Greens doorknocked the housing estates. Likewise, Ellen Sandell was elected in Melbourne with a large public housing constituency.  Now, after the election, the Greens policy is to support privatization under certain conditions, which is not that different from the Andrews Labor Government.

Privatizing public housing/allowing management or ownership by Community Housing Organizations will weaken the rights and protections currently enjoyed by Public Housing tenants.

Monday, 28 December 2015


A woman in a shop told me how she gave some chocolates to a homeless woman on the street who then broke down and cried. She told this story as a wonderful illustration of the meaning of Christmas...

I was a bit horrified by what she was telling me. It was all too 'Charles Dickens' for me.

 'and the miserable wretch clutched at her sleeve, and with tears streaming down her face
exclaimed  'Thank you m'lady. God will reward you for your kindness' 

There can be something very unequal about 'charity'  ...
I have my own guiding beliefs and I respect all religions - but it is surely a retrogressive step to take away justice and try and replace it with charity. 

Yet this is the direction the present  housing policy - is taking us in - without any accompanying political - or social - analysis. 

Remember a time when it was unthinkable that there would be homelessness in Australia ?

It is interesting how things are shifting ... and rapidly too.

A sensible class analysis wouldn't go astray.  But that's right. We are a classless society here in Australia we keep telling ourselves ... A fair go for all.  Advance Australia fair and all that malarkey.

Another ideologically driven assumption that is being repeated which is worrying is 
that somehow homelessness is inevitable, a fact of life, regrettable yes- but nevertheless 'acceptable'.

( Certainly not the responsibility or genuine concern of the government whose role is primarily to support and promote business interests )

Don't believe it for a minute. 

Homelessness is a running sore -  an indictment on our society.

As is the privatisation ( theft ) of public housing.

There should be no homelessness in a prosperous country like Australia.

Homelessness is an indication of what a selfish society we have become -  it's all about money, power, prestige and self-interest. Our values are screwed up. 'Greed is good' never really went out of style...

But I believe it is the political system that is taking us in this direction. It is not the wishes of ordinary people on the street .. But since when did politics truly represent the desires and wishes of the people? 

Friends of Public Housing is very happy to work side by side with the Homeless Persons Union of Victoria - HPUV.  We share the same analysis of the current situation. We deplore the deliberate neglect and privatisation of public housing. And the demonisation and stereotyping of both public tenants and homeless people.

Having a roof over your head is not a privilege- but a basic human right.

Sunday, 27 December 2015


I hope everyone had a happy Christmas.

An update on the campaign.

On 10.12.15, a group from Friends of Public Housing Victoria were invited to attend the Nick Xenephon launch in Victoria of his new national political party.

The Nick Xenophon Team has the snappy acronym – NXT.

The candidate for Higgins is Nancy Bassett and we were pleased to hear her speak on the importance of public housing. She spoke to the audience about the transferring of public housing titles, and the responsibility of government to ensure that we retain public housing - now and for the future.

Not only did she get the language right, ( no confusing ambiguous terms ) she nailed the issue ( the stock transfers ) and made it clear that the ongoing provision of public housing is a governmental responsibility, and the future depends on it.

Wow!!   How refreshing to hear honest, plain speaking common-sense regarding this urgent issue from a political candidate.

During the 'question and answer' session, when the topic of public housing was again raised,  
Nick Xenephon made the point that once these properties are gone they are gone forever.

We recently had White Ribbon Day to draw attention to the shocking national problem of domestic violence. Where are all these ( mainly ) women and children to go in order for them to be safe -if there is no housing available !?

We need public housing. We need to stop the scandalous practice of giving away publicly owned titles, and we need to increase the stock.

In the present political climate, most politicians studiously avoid talking about the transferring of public housing titles to private interests – which is, of course, the privatisation of a public asset. The stock transfers are still the big elephant in the room.

But no-one has the right to keep such a vitally important thing a secret - especially in the face of escalating homelessness and when there are such compelling arguments to hang on to public housing.

So let's congratulate Nancy Bassett from the Nick Xenephon Team for her courageous stand regarding the future of public housing - for not skirting the issue of the stock (or asset)  transfers, and for her support of government owned and managed public housing. 

The launch of NXT in Victoria was a vibrant function. We stayed and talked to the team afterwards about how the privatisation of public housing is being covertly orchestrated without the public tenants or the general public even knowing about it !!

We also spoke of the rights of public tenants which are being bulldozed along with so many publicly owned properties.


Saturday, 5 December 2015




If you want to really know what's going on, read this.


In reading this media release you will see that so-called 'Affordable Housing' is often not affordable for those who need it most. 'Community housing' and 'social housing' are not the same as public housing. 
 Below are some extracts from their media release.

Re Markham Avenue Public Housing Estate in Ashburton Victoria
"Markham Avenue is OURS; it belongs to the public, paid for from consolidated revenue, and it is not the government’s to sell!"
"Investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW in 2014 revealed that the area in which corruption has been most active has been between state governments and land developers. Speaking to the Markham Avenue estate, we find that: Almost three-quarters of the new units will be sold as private houses so the state is likely to earn a hefty profit on the project."

Under the title Public Housing not Social Housing.
“The HPUV finds this massive privatisation an affront to the near-35,000 Victorians on the 7-10 year public housing waiting list. However, what we find most worrisome, in addition to the disproportionate allocation of private dwellings vis-à-vis social dwellings, is the plan for the building of social housing itself, as opposed to public housing.

Community Housing Federation = Peak Body for Community Housing ( aka Social Housing.)
“The Community Housing Federation claims that community or social housing is only available to those who pay 30% or more of their income in a private rental property. In addition to the nebulous nature of this statement, we note that HPUV members currently pay 50% or more of their government benefit on their social housing dwelling, leaving them oftentimes reliant on food charity and on poorly funded not-for-profit organisations. In general, social housing rents contribute to the existing difficulty that all recipients of government benefits are facing to meet the costs of living.”

And under the title 'A complicit media' the HPUV says that 'commercial media provides tacit support to the free market solutions to the long-standing problems of social and economic inequity that we have highlighted. The domination of Australian media by commercial interests gives rise to a narrative which stereotypes public housing estates, portraying them oftentimes as havens for crime and deviant behaviour, where drug users, misfits, leaners, and general miscreants congregate."

'We believe the kind of depiction of public housing tenants and estates we have noted is a form of ‘poverty porn’ in which disadvantaged Victorians are looked upon as a spectacle.'

"We ask the Victorian public to reflect on the nature of social justice in our communities. In pursuing free market solutions to social and economic inequity, are we not effectively leaving people behind?"




'The problem you lot are facing is waking people up to the importance of your cause.
If a problem does not affect them personally, people basically switch off. People are busy living their own lives.

Of course the privatisation of public housing affects them. It affects all of us.
One person's homelessness is another person's problem.

We are certainly rich enough in Australia - there should be no homelessness at all.

If they taxed the multinationals for a start and utilized this money correctly and efficiently we would have a fairer society. The system is basically corrupt. The people at the top are taking, taking, taking and the people at the bottom are missing out. That's our system - capitalism.

The people in power are paid off to have a particular agenda. Maybe politicians started out with good intentions but they get swallowed up by the system. In the end they don't have a voice - they have to conform or they're out. Conform to a greedy ideology. In the end they just become lying hypocrites. Puppets. They do what they are told to do. I don't have time for politicians at all. That's why I don't vote. I took my name off the electoral roll. There's no point in voting.

And don't forget they're on good incomes and pensions for life. They're not going to rock the boat. Money talks. Politics nowadays is all about individuals getting their leg up on the ladder of their careers. There's a real absence of any discussion about what is good for the society as a whole - what's the right thing for the health and well-being of our society.

Most politicians get their education from middle or upper class schools. Mostly what they are learning is how the system works - and what the system tells them. There's a whole world outside this system. They don't get that.

They don't really have empathy for the people on the bottom.

Take aged care... Its a shambles. There's not enough money given for aged care - just like with housing and education. You see, there's no profit in these areas unless they are privatised. The government says there is not enough money to fund these services. Why not?  What's going on? Who's skimming it ?

My Dad ended up in a nursing home. One or two nurses for fifteen patients. Elderly people who can't walk and need to use the toilet. They call out for assistance and end up soiling themselves. Where's the dignity for our elderly citizens? Nurses are so stressed they leave the industry and they get in people on overseas visas. And the nursing home I'm describing, where my Dad lived, was by no means the worst. It was considered a reasonably good one. That's why when my Mum got dementia I looked after her at home. I was her carer.

Anyway that's what I think on the matter.  Good luck with your campaign'.


Quotes by Deb Chapman
Community Development Worker

"When well-meaning people and middle class organisations get captured by the Affordable Housing lobby, they take their eye off the main ball, which is the reduction of Public Housing."

" Friends of Public Housing Victoria show insightful analysis about the importance of Public Housing to our communities and broader society."

Saturday, 28 November 2015


Here is an account by a Friends of Public Housing member in the Western suburbs while collecting signatures for the campaign. This information was written up in an incident report at the time with the local Neighbourhood House in the area.

It happened while the Liberals were in power in Victoria, and it illustrates another example of the ongoing disempowerment of public tenants - especially regarding the politically sensitive issue of transferring public housing stock - our homes - to non government housing businesses.

Deliberate disempowerment, of one form or another, is ongoing.

Another public tenant and member of FOPHV was very concerned about the proposed take-over of public housing by 'community housing' organisations and the changes that would take place as a result of it.

Only a few weeks ago, she asked her local housing officer, 'What's all this about community and social housing?'  She was told that there is no point in discussing it until it happens. Of course by then it is too late.

It is unknown what organisation or government department the people in the car belonged to.

Gathering petitions, going door to door in Adamson Street Braybrook I saw a brand new car going into a set of units. There were three people in the car. As I got closer to the units, I saw them coming away from the units. One of them approached me. She asked me what I was doing and I told her that I was collecting petitions against the privatisation of public housing. She wanted to look at the petition so I showed her. She then wrote down the BMSPTA ( Braybrook Maidstone Sunshine Public Tenants Association ) contact number and told me that the Friends for Public Housing document and the petition were illegal because it didn’t have a signature on it. I asked her who she was. She didn’t respond. She asked me what I was getting out of it. I told her that it was volunteer work. She then got in the car and left. I went to the units. When I knocked on the door the people wouldn’t sign the petition as they had been told not to sign by the people in that car. I don’t know where they were from. Next time, if I see them I will get the rego number.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Written by Alma Ryrie-Jones
for Friends of Public Housing Victoria
in her document 'HOMES UNDER THREAT'

Public housing estates in the inner urban areas of Melbourne were built following slum clearance in areas long considered fit only for the poor.

But times have changed, and the suburbs around them have changed.

These developments are now located in areas of excellent public transport, vibrant cultural and culinary diversity and convenient closeness to workplaces in the city, entertainment, health services and hospitals.

These areas are now highly desirable and sought after by developers, except for the inconvenient truth that many thousands of people already live there as public tenants and would like to stay there.

It seems that governments and developers would like to find ways of dislodging public tenants, by transferring the ownership and management of their tenancies to others, by removing their rights as government tenants, or by outright threats or evictions.

This is property clearance.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


I get very upset when public tenants are endlessly bashed in the media, put down, stigmatised and vilified.
Some of the nicest people I have met in my life have been public tenants.
Public tenants are overwhelmingly friendly, down to earth, cheerful, generous and hospitable people.
In times of crisis or illness in a neighbour's life, public tenants are very compassionate, helpful and supportive -  with an understanding based on their own life experiences.
Our multicultural communities have a lot to offer and teach society because they are based on sound community values.

If public housing titles are given away - how long do you think it will be before public tenants are economically squeezed out of their inner city homes situated on prime real estate ??   Pushed out to make way for gentrification.
Friends of Public Housing Victoria have gathered the thoughts and opinions of public tenants while visiting public housing estates around Melbourne.

'Public housing is one reason why Australia was called the lucky country'
'People end up living in public housing for a variety of reasons. If we tell you our stories, you'll soon find out why we live in public housing'
'I live in a great community. I look after my sick neighbour. Every Saturday we do his shopping for him'

'In a word what they are doing by privatising public housing is RUTHLESS'

'I don't have a computer or even a mobile phone so I appreciate it when I get a visit from Friends of Public Housing and someone asks me for my opinion'

'Public tenants need a voice that says 'Lay off. Stop picking on us'

'Public housing provides security from being homeless. It gives an oasis to people in despair. Many people are living in hardship due to mental illness. Public housing is a form of social security'
'Leave the drug addicts alone. They stay on their side of the fence. We stay on ours. We say hello when we see them on the estate. They're not bad people. They still need a roof over their head'

'No-one should be homeless. No-one.'

'I shop at Kmart and op-shops. They are for people on low incomes. Myers and David Jones- you'd have to be a millionaire to shop there'

'Politicians are money-grabbing so-and-sos. These places were designed for people on low incomes'

'I live in public housing with the missus and kids. They don't know what it's like to be poor. They've never had to live like us. Do they know what it's like to worry about how you spend your last $20 or whether there's enough money for food for the fortnight? The rise in energy bills is killing us.'

'A judge from VCAT said to me once 'You've paid your rent for 54 years. This is your home. You've paid it off by now. Don't let anybody put you out of your own home'
'We are very happy living in public housing. I am from Iran and my partner is from Iraq. He is a boat person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We came here to be safe. We always pray for Australia to stay a peaceful country. We budget carefully. If they put up our rent we couldn't afford it. Being a part of this community is very important for my partner. There is always someone he can talk to when he has depression. We love living in Carlton.'
' Just because we live in low class housing, we are still human beings.'
'I used to own my own house. But things went wrong and now I'm living in public housing. It can happen to anyone'
'Destruction of public housing will unleash more social problems than society is able to deal with'

'Public tenants, we stick together. We fight for everyone - all different nationalities and colours and religions.'
'We see drug addicts and alcoholics and over time they settle down and come good. That's the importance of a community'

'There are not enough support systems in place to deal with the problems privatising public housing will create'
'I am very happy living in public housing. I have no complaints'

'Public tenants fight for the right things - not the wrong things. We fight for the refugees who come here and are our neighbours.'

'I feel very sorry for the children who have come from a war-torn country and now they are happy living here in public housing and the Government is going to take that all away'
'If we get privatised we'll all be worse off '

Saturday, 31 October 2015


'I've said over and over again, I am not about to be a part of privatising public housing'

Why can't we find a politician like her in this country?
Privatising public housing – will ( and already is .. ) impacting severely on the people at the bottom of the heap who are too poor basically to be 'economically viable' as renters in market-based housing.

Already the shelters and associated services are unable to cope with the desperate need.

Where will these people turn? Where will they go - if the ALP continues down the path of privatising public housing by handing over the titles of Public Housing to Community Housing Organisations and property developers? There is precious little public housing as it is ...
These people will end up on the streets …

What is WRONG with politics in Australia that the privatisation of such a vitally important asset can be happening with virtually no opposition ?  

The following definition by the peak body of Community Housing Organisations was taken from their submission to the Review into the Human Rights Charter. Community Housing Organisations 'are body corporates entering into and enforcing tenancy agreements in a manner consistent with the ordinary powers of legal persons'
Handing over the titles of formerly publicly owned properties is privatisation, and all the smokescreens of not calling it such, is not fooling anyone...
There are lots of good people working in this industry who share our concerns about where all this is heading …
Let's take a look at how the forces of neoliberalism and the attempt to take over public housing played out in the US in 2011.
Two politicians, Maxine Waters and Barney Frank, energetically took up the issue on behalf of ordinary Americans.
The following article by George Lakoff for the Huffington Post is informative and excellent.
Some extracts from the article
HUD = Housing and Urban Development. Shaun Donovan -former secretary of HUD.

'HUD's attempt to privatise all of America's public housing has been put on hold -- for now. You played an important role. Thousands of you signed the petition and spread the word, so that those at the House Financial Services Committee hearing on May 25 understood what the stakes were.'
'Barney Frank and Maxine Waters asked the right questions, and HUD's answers revealed what was hidden in the language of the bill, namely, that all public housing in America would be subject to privatisation.'
More extracts from the article

'Let us praise Barney Frank and Maxine Waters for calling privatisation "privatisation." '
'This gobbledegook language actually says that the Secretary of HUD can consider private (or privatised) property, no longer legally owned by the government, as if it were "owned by a public housing agency". This is linguistic trickery by which private, or privatised, property can be called "public." Given this trickery, Donovan can claim that all privatised property is still "public," because the PETRA bill allows him to call it that and "consider" it as such. It is basically lying with language.'

Here in Australia, governments are using an umbrella term 'social housing' to refer to both public housing and community housing - and then transfer one to the other.
Friends of Public Housing Victoria is resisting this, because it is a ruse by which the real name public housing soon gets phased out completely- or expunged. The end result is the privatisation by stealth of public housing.
Do we say social schools, social transport and social hospitals? Of course not. The correct terms are public schools, public transport, public hospitals - public housing.
In the US they did the opposite. As pointed out by George Lakoff, they changed the law so that you could call housing that is privately owned 'public housing'! In this way everyone is kept bamboozled … lol
Here is another quote from Maxine Waters who, when talking to embattled public tenants in the US, subjected to 'one strike evictions', vilification and propaganda, displacement by gentrification, 'exiting public housing' programs ( to where? ) and the like.
'Don't give up. Don't let them break your spirit.'
Maybe one day soon a politician / political party will rise up in our country ( before the next election ? ) and start saying the right thing. 'We must not stand by while public housing is being privatised.'

They would certainly get a lot of support nation-wide from the general public as well as from our public housing communities.


Saturday, 24 October 2015


Can you believe that here in Australia we are following Britain down the same path ; implementing a Tory housing policy direction -  ie privatisation - even though it has proven itself to be a social disaster in Britain !?   Please see our post 'Graph of Greed' 
If you study the situation in the UK, you will soon discover MUCH THE SAME SPIN.

Here's the link to an article from the UK GUARDIAN called 
'Affordable Housing does not mean what you think it means.'
The UK version of the Guardian is excellent in its coverage of the housing crisis in the UK. 

Some excerpts..
'Beware of politicians talking about affordable homes. New 'affordable' housing is not actually that affordable.'
'In a move worthy of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth, affordable rent will be higher than before, set at up to 80% of the local market rent. Across whole swathes of southern England affordable rented properties will simply not be affordable to people on low incomes.'

'Council housing in Westminster, London - under newer 'affordable rents', tenants would need an income of up to £109,000 a year for flats here to be affordable.'
As in the UK, when we refer to paradigm-changing Australian housing policy directions ( which are not open to debate )  'affordable housing' has already been defined as 'up to 80% of market rents'...

In practice, community housing operators often charge 75% of market rents which means they can claim GST exemptions. They also rely heavily on tax-payer funded Commonwealth Rent Assistance ( CRA ) which goes directly to them, and is used as an ongoing operating subsidy. Otherwise people on low incomes, especially without access to CRA - could not afford to live in 'affordable housing'. 

This also begs the question, ' How affordable is 'affordable housing' to our society, since it relies on so much corporate welfare to sustain it ? '

By contrast the operation of Public Housing requires no Commonwealth Rent Assistance because the rents, set at 25% of income, are already genuinely affordable. We need to hang on to the Public Housing system, and work to improve it - not just 'give it away' as the ALP is considering doing !!


So- 'Affordable housing' -when used in a housing context-  is not used in the way that we would use the term. ( as a layperson )

With this spin in mind, we need to discuss public housing and non-government housing rather than using an elastic term like 'affordable housing'.

Affordable Housing operators have formed international alliances in Canada, UK and the US
All prosperous countries with epidemics of homelessness.
How well has 'affordable housing' worked in these countries??

Someone has to ask these hard questions.
But - there is no real media analysis or discussion here in Australia. 


Another report, also from the UK, is called

'The Affordable Housing Con' by London Tenants Federation. 
It begins with an extract from Lewis Carroll and a quote from a senior lecturer in urban studies.

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


'Social scientists take considerable care in defining their concepts in order to make them more precise.

By contrast, the term ‘affordable housing’ is used in such a wide variety of ways by those people in positions of power in relation to housing provision, such as politicians, property developers and planners, that it means just what they want it to mean – just like Humpty Dumpty.'

Dr. Paul Watt, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies, Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies Birkbeck, University of London



Friday, 23 October 2015



Here is another response from Friends of Public Housing Victoria to the extremely disturbing report in The Age - (  'Sweeping Changes presented on Public Housing in Victoria'  19.10.15. )

I have copied and pasted The Age article below, in full, in case you missed it. It also includes a link which highlights the previous Liberal Coalition government's plan to hand over 12,000 Public Housing properties to Community Housing Organisations.

This Letter to the Editor was written by Gordon O'Reilly. He is a former insider from the management team within the Office of Housing who managed financial and other evaluations of the full range of public and so-called social housing options.

We now know that the Victorian ALP State government is 'considering' transferring the management of PUBLIC HOUSING with the view to handing over the TITLES. 

While nothing definite has been said, the Prahan Masterplan affecting four estates  indicates that the present Labor govt is continuing in the same direction of the former ousted Coalition Liberal Government - favouring and facilitating the agenda of property developers and big business - while abandoning any genuine commitment to public housing which is so desperately needed.


We urge more people and more organisations to join us in opposition to this long term covert trend of undermining and destroying public housing by selling it off, and giving it away to private interests. 



Letter to the Age 

Responding to Age News 19.10.15

I have managed the financial assessment of over 100 public housing projects.
In summary: Buildings age. Needs evolve. And needs are growing . .

What's now needed: building maintenance, and a renewed commitment to public housing. After decades of responsible, successful ownership of public housing, it seems that the government is more interested in disposing of real estate, than maintaining it.

This is despite the growing number of people below the poverty line and the growing number of homeless.

Evidently the modern Labor Party is quite happy to further abandon its traditional focus - helping those most in need.

Just like the party for the big end of town, the Andrews Labor government is much more interested in ditching normal government maintenance responsibilities, and turning over yet another big chunk of the public service/assets to organisations driven by hard efficiency, to run at a profit.

What's happening here to government compassion? Displaced by the almighty dollar.

What's the end result of the proposed phasing out of public housing? An increase in the number of people who are homeless.

As Derryn Hinch famously used to say - Shame!


Sweeping changes presented on public housing in Victoria  

October 18, 2015

Benjamin Preiss

State Political Reporter for The Age

Public housing could be set for sweeping reforms if the Victorian Housing Department proceeds with proposals to hand over homes to community operators and sell "outdated" properties.

A department presentation to community housing groups raises the possibility of transferring public housing titles to community housing operators if they can raise standards for residents.

It also suggests the potential acceleration of a "sales program of outdated properties" that are no longer needed so that "capital reinvestment" can be increased.

Housing Minister Martin Foley said the government was intent on growing public housing and had no "sell-off agenda".

"This government is investing more in growing social housing by using our assets and opportunities in a better way," he said.

The presentation foreshadows public housing estate redevelopments and identifying estates most in need of upgrades.

The document said a "transfer management program" was being considered and could lead to property title transfers after three to five years if performance standards were met.
Those standards may include improving tenant satisfaction and exceeding maintenance benchmarks.

However, the document makes no mention of how many transfers may take place.
"Our clear position is that we are not looking at title transfer unless we can deliver a benefit to tenants and increase social housing units," Mr Foley said.

Community Housing Federation executive officer Lesley Dredge said transfers of public housing stock to community operators were happening around the country.

She said management transfers would allow community housing groups to improve property maintenance and community development.

But Ms Dredge added that title transfers would give social housing tenants more stability and allow community housing groups to borrow money and invest in new supply.

"Some have described title transfer as privatisation but this is misleading," Ms Dredge said. "In fact we are more rigorously regulated than state-managed public housing."

The presentation shows plans to expand the number of social housing dwellings, reduce "concentrations of disadvantage" and provide more housing options to people with disabilities.

Opposition housing spokesman Tim Bull urged the government to ensure any transfers to the community sector did not result in the most vulnerable people in the community losing priority. He said tenants' rent should not increase if the transfer plan proceeded.

Last year the previous Coalition government unveiled plans to transfer 12,000 public housing units to the community housing sector.

Victorian Public Tenants Association executive director Mark Feenane​ said he "embraced" the department's process.

"We need more people thinking about the future of public housing," he said. "In looking at ways to grow public housing we need to be careful about shooting down ideas too quickly, we want careful consideration of options, not grandstanding."

University of NSW housing policy researcher Professor Hal Pawson described the presentation as "wide-ranging".

"It is some form of strategy which you don't get very often in this field," he said.
Professor Pawson said both management and title transfers would allow residents to claim federal rent assistance as tenants of community housing providers.

Melbourne Greens MP Ellen Sandell said there was a housing crisis in Victoria. The public housing waiting list passed 34,000 in June this year.

"Having a safe place to live is a fundamental human right," Ms Sandell said.
She said the government should be investing more money in public housing properties and making "much needed improvements" to existing stock.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said transferring management of social housing to community service providers had been linked to improved services, better efficiency and "community empowerment". 

"The potential reforms to social housing should be one of the many requirements of a much-needed state-wide affordable housing strategy."  

Monday, 19 October 2015


IT'S OFFICIAL. In spite of all their denials, Victorian State Labor government is 'considering' handing over Public Housing to Community Housing Organisations.    
Here is my letter to The Age -  Jeremy Dixon

Lesley Dredge, Executive Officer of the Community Housing Federation doesn't think it's privatisation when public housing properties are handed over to private "community" operators such as she represents. ( News 19 Oct ) Well, it will do until privatisation comes along. If your local state high school was handed over to, say, Geelong Grammar then that would surely be privatisation, and the cases are parallel.

The Community Housing interests have done a brilliant job of making government workers and politicians of most persuasions see Community Housing's seizure of public assets as inevitable. Whatever their public relations people are paid- it is not enough.

But still it is privatisation we are talking about and no amount of spin can disguise it.
The result will be the disaster we have come to expect from privatisation.

Jeremy Dixon
Nth Carlton Public Housing flats

Sunday, 18 October 2015



Fairer Safer Housing in Victoria.

In June this year the Victorian government put out a consultation paper called 'Fairer Safer Housing in Victoria' as part of a Review of the Residential Tenancy Act.
Jeremy Dixon and I worked on a submission together.
Jeremy is my friend, neighbour and fellow public tenant.
He is working hard to get a new political party off the ground- PIBCI - Public Interests before Corportate Interests. He is also the convenor of Defend and Extend Public Housing. This post is based on what we wrote to the Victorian government.



Fairer Safer Housing in Victoria.

Some comments from the perspective of public housing tenants.

The Definitions within the document.

There is a serious problem regarding the definitions used in the consultation paper.

Firstly it states that 'social housing collectively refers to public housing and community housing.' This definition means that 'social housing' is an umbrella term which applies to both community and public housing.
To call both community and public housing 'social housing' is a confusing and obfuscating misuse of language since they are two very different housing models.

Furthermore social housing is also used as a synonym for community housing, as distinct from public housing. The definitions keep shifting making meaningful and sensible debate difficult.

Some of the distinctions between public and community housing. ( Why they shouldn't be lumped in together.)

-Only public housing is both government owned and government managed. Public housing provides security of tenure and rebated flexible rents which are all too often missing in community housing. Public housing does not require tenants to apply for Commonwealth Rent Assistance in order for the rents to be affordable.

Community housing, also sometimes called 'affordable housing' charges tenants up to 80% of market rents and requires ongoing huge amounts of taxpayer funded Commonwealth Rent Assistance in order for it to be 'affordable' for its tenants on low incomes. This goes directly to the Community Housing Organisation and serves as an operating subsidy. In practice, community housing often charge 75% of market rents which qualifies them for exemptions from GST.

-Public tenants are protected from unfair 'no cause' eviction notices. This is often not the case for community housing tenants and those in the private rental market. Unlike the situation with public housing, many community housing tenants are on fixed term contracts.

- Public housing provides housing to people on low incomes. 'Community housing' caters for people on low to moderate incomes. The report itself shows that the demographics of public and community housing are different which makes the logic of considering them as a bloc and conflating them for statistical purposes difficult to see.

Definition of Community Housing Organisations

The definition of 'community housing' in the government document is also problematic. It states that 'community housing is fully or partially funded by government to provide short-term crisis or transitional housing to people experiencing homelessness, as well as longer-term housing'.

We think this is an inadequate definition of 'community housing'. The business activities of community housing organisations go well beyond transitional housing for homeless people. Community housing organisations now own and/or manage over 18,000 properties in Victoria, including formerly publicly owned properties. Eight large community housing organisations ( housing associations ) are also major property developers.
Calling us by our right name.

Public tenants do not refer to themselves as 'social housing' tenants. To attempt to impose a change of name on us, indicates a complete lack of cultural sensitivity to the identity and voices of public tenants and our public housing communities.

It also disempowers public tenants by implying that 'public', 'community' and 'social' housing are all the same thing. This denies us necessary acurate information  regarding major paradigm shifts in housing policy that will impact on ourselves and our families. 

Big Picture Agenda? 
The privatisation - by stealth- of public housing
To label both public and community housing 'social housing' conceals the fundamental differences between public and community housing. It makes it very easy to transfer public housing to private interests ( and difficult to trace in government documents ).

What will be the impact on our society as a whole, if we keep on losing public housing properties through stock transfers, bulldozing and private selloffs?  Inadequate public housing results in increased homelessness. It is the collective human right of public tenants to partake in public life and we want to be part of this debate. 
Three Strikes Eviction Policies

We reject the notion that public tenants - and for that matter community housing tenants - need additional laws and threats such as a Three Strikes Eviction policy over and above the Residential Tenancy Act, which is already weighted on the side of the landlords' interests against the tenants. Why should people on low incomes be denied the same housing security enjoyed by other members of society?

Human Rights

Public tenants have the protection of the Human Rights Charter.

There was recently a review of the Human Rights Charter. The peak body for Community Housing Organisations -CHFV- disputed the applicability of the HRC- stating that it was not the original intention of the HRC that it apply to Community Housing Organisations. It went on to argue how its terms –ie being a public authority – did not apply to them.

As your report states, both public and community housing tenants are among the 'most vulnerable and disadvantaged' members of our society. It is essential that they have the full protection of the Human Rights Charter.

All changes in the context of housing should be made clear to public tenants and prospective tenants of community housing, especially in light of any proposed transfers of stock, management and tenancies. Public tenants need to be fully informed.

If your department is serious about establishing a fairer safer housing system for all Victorians, then we believe that it should acknowledge and rectify the ongoing disregard of the rights of public tenants by addressing these issues.

Finally the notion that the market can satisfy all housing needs is an ideological one and unsupported by evidence. 

The growth of community housing should not be at the expense of public housing. 
The government should accept and embrace the fact that the provision of a strong and viable public housing sector is a beneficial, necessary and permanent part of housing policy.
Rather than divest itself of this asset via stock transfers, we urge the Andrews Labor government to keep public housing in public hands, work with tenants to improve its delivery and management, and invest in more public housing to meet the growing demand.

Jeremy Dixon - Defend and Extend Public Housing
Fiona Ross - Friends of Public Housing Victoria