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Wednesday, 23 September 2015


The Prahran Master Plan


A number of things are good. Essentially, overdue contemporary urban design and building practises are adopted:

  1. New buildings have their orientation to the sun optimised; and meet current building standards for energy efficiency
  2. Roofs are used for garden space and/ or solar panels
  3. Most of the 2000 odd new units will have direct street entrances
  4. In some new units, contemporary levels of access (or potential future access) for the disabled is planned.
  5. A much more efficient use of these very valuable pieces of inner-city real estate. Specifically, a *** very large number of new housing units - eg, in Horace Petty – an increase in housing units of THREE times!
  6. Community facilities appear to be commensurate with the BIG increase in unit numbers
  7. Some on-site shops will be fitted in, and a café
  8. Car parking is provided for. Possibly commensurate with the very big increase in household numbers. 
  9. Many trees will be retained
In summary: the adoption of current, reasonable design principles.

However these improvements are only positives if they are equitably shared by all residents - both private and public. It should be made clear that there is no discrimination- direct or implicit.


Most of the existing open public space will be built over.

So far, so good.


Some specific concerns
* At a recent community consultation session it was stated that the walk-ups are targeted for demolition and the high-rise conversions will require that the tenants  be relocated.

* Further, Melbourne University urban geographer Dr Shaw said “it appeared the estates would lose three- and four-bedroom units to be replaced by housing for singles”. This will displace families.
Despite the planning process being underway for at least two years, no statement of DHHS's intentions for the tenants who are going to be affected has been forthcoming. According to at least three attendees at a consultation session as recently as mid September, many of these important issues which will disrupt people's lives remain up in the air.

Dr Shaw has also stated (The Age, August 24) that: "introducing private residents would not necessarily increase their interaction with the public housing tenants. The whole rationale for introducing the public private social mix on these sites doesn't stack up".

The bigger picture
* This is a BIG collection of projects. Hence it is a golden OPPORTUNITY to address, at least in part, the chronic SHORTAGE of public housing. After all, that’s why the estates were created!

What is missing? 
* * Obviously, these projects are LONG-TERM. What is totally lacking from the Masterplan, is ANY projection of the corresponding long-term public housing DEMAND!

Pictures and good design principles - there are pages and pages of them. 
Also shown clearly is the large number of new units. For the precinct, new apartments (give or take a range) total around 2,000. 
There is a simple bland statement that in public housing units, there will be “no net LOSS”. . Why, when there is room for 2,000 ADDITIONAL HOUSEHOLDS, is there NO STATEMENT about using the project to provide any INCREASE in public housing??


The latest available (June 2015) DHHS data shows official waiting lists, eg:

  • Within Prahran’s official DHHS area, waiting are 1805 official applicants, ie single households or families. Counting multi-person applicants, the number of people waiting, would exceed 1805.
  • In the broader local region of DHHS’s South Division, the waiting list is over 10,000 applicants.
Across the state, there are well over 30,000 applicants are waiting for public housing.  Where, ANYWHERE - is the PLAN to address their needs?  
In this prosperous country, how many more years should people have to wait, for the basic need of housing - a roof over their heads?

And what of course, is NOT in the waiting lists, is the number of homeless people. Without a home. 

Surely, as land is available, a decent society endeavours to address that urgent need !?

Across the state, homeless people are estimated (per Homelessness Australia data) to number over 22,000. Where is the state’s Masterplan for them??

Victoria’s unfilled real need for basic public housing could well be more than 50,000 people.
That is at present. But it gets worse. 
Prahran’s Horace Petty Estate, which was completed in 1967, has provided a lifespan of close on 50 years. 
In just the last nine years, the same Homelessness data shows that the number of Victorians without a home has grown by more than 20 %. That’s an average increase of over 3 % pa. 
If that were to be miraculously be slowed to only 2 % pa – really only about the likely rate of population growth, over a conservative lifespan of only 30 years of lowcost housing, Victoria’s homeless will become over 40,000. At that rate, over 40 years – less than the current age of the estate – our homeless could become over 50,000.

If the current trend simply continues, over only 30 years, Victoria’s homeless will total nearly 60,000. Over 40 years, our homeless would become over 80,000.

Where is the Masterplan to address the needs of desperate people – those on the waiting list and the homeless?


The redevelopment of Prahran’s public housing estates, for the first time in more than five decades, provides a wonderful opportunity to address, ie decrease the chronic backlog of desperate people needing public housing. These people make up some of the most disadvantaged in our society. 
Our Government needs a decent plan to deal with the massive and burgeoning housing crisis. The Prahran Masterplan fails to address it.

There are of course important financial implications. Where are the numbers (or even ranges) for this aspect? No doubt, under 'commercial in confidence' they are not made available. So in the absence of public information, to assess this, our only option is to estimate this crucial information. What is the likely profit on the sales of the New Units and Highrise Conversions?

The Masterplan states "no net loss of public housing". It is not made clear whether the overall number of bedrooms will even be retained. 

Given the absence of any statement about what number of the new dwellings might be sold, let’s do a very simple scenario. 
What the land and properties would be worth ... Let’s assume a simple mid-point - that half the additional housing is rented out, and the other half is sold to private owners. 
If half the additional housing is sold, and there were say $50,000 average profit per unit sold, a calculation using the quantities from the Masterplan shows that the PROFIT could total between $48 MILLION and $67 MILLION. Being Prahran, that is quite easily conservative.

Whatever the profit turns out to be - and how much of the profit from the sale (?) of this PRIME REAL ESTATE - which (for now at least) is PUBLICLY OWNED by the Victorian Government - will be used to invest in a far greater percentage of public housing in Prahran - of the standards outlined in the Masterplan?

Gordon O'Reilly



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