In 2017, the Victorian government (State government of Australia) announced the Public Housing Renewal Program (PHRP) - which is aimed to redevelop older public housing homes and create more social housing in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. 11 Public housing sites will be renewed as part of Stage One, which will create new homes with a mix of social, private and affordable housing.
One of those public housing sites is the Walker Street Estate in Northcote. Built in the 1960s, it currently has 87 dwellings and residents are from a close knit community from a range of backgrounds. The aim of my project is to document the people who will experience further hardships from the PHRP. To voice their concern and opposition to the Government's PHRP, many gathered (including residents, members of organisations such as the Public Housing Defence Network and Members of Parliament) have held protests and gatherings to try to stop the initiative being implemented.
Although the PHRP has intentions of offering more modern and economical housing, the redevelopment will result in its residents being forced to move out, with no guarantee of return to their current housing. Figures show that more than half of the redeveloped housing will be private housing, and whilst there will be social housing, it does not offer the same protection for residents as public housing, as community housing are operated by private organisations.
For many residents, these housing have been their home for many years. Despite many of these sites being marked as an dangerous, and riddled with drugs and alcohol, the residents feel that it is a safe and harmonious place, where they feel settled and comfortable. The thought of having to leave their friends, and the familiar environment deeply distresses them.
There are currently 40,000 applications (approx. 100,000 people) on the waiting list for public housing in Victoria. Redeveloping the current public housing into a mix of social housing and private housing means that there will be even fewer public housing available for those really in need of housing. Further, having private Community Housing organisations manage and own public housing creates the risk that profits will be given primary consideration, before the well-being of people who may really need our help.
Homelessness has reached crisis point and is becoming a major social issue in Victoria. My hope is that through this project, I can bring this issue to the awareness of more people and help them understand the importance and urgency of more public housing to battle the issue of homelessness. This project is ongoing, with more stories and images to come from this and other Estates, and as further developments occur.