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Inquiry Into Victoria's Public Housing Tower Demolition Plan Launched

The reasoning behind the Victorian government's plan to demolish, privatise and rebuild all 44 of its public housing towers will be the subject of a new parliamentary inquiry.
Melbourne's public housing towers will be demolished and rebuilt. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images. 

All 44 of Victoria’s public housing high-rise towers will be demolished and rebuilt by private developers under a controversial plan announced last year that will soon be the focus of a new parliamentary inquiry. 

The Greens introduced a motion for an inquiry to the state’s Upper House, where they hold the balance of power, and on Wednesday it was passed with the support of the Coalition and the crossbench. 


The inquiry will investigate the reasoning and cost-modelling behind the plan – which was announced by the Andrews Government in September as part of its Housing Statement, preparing for the next 10 years – as well as whether alternatives were considered and the plan’s impact on current public housing residents. 

The plan acknowledged that Victoria’s public housing apartment blocks, all built in the 1960s and 70s and now a staple to both the city’s skyline and local communities, were in disrepair after years of government neglect. But the proposed solution will fund the rebuild by selling or leasing almost all the land to private developers who would replace the public blocks with mixed public, social and “affordable” private housing.  

More than 10,000 people currently live in Victorian public housing and, while the proposed redevelopments will be able to accommodate 30,000, only 11,000 will be public tenants, just one thousand more than today. 

Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam said that, in the 6 months since Labor revealed the plan, it hasn’t been transparent or communicative and has refused to answer questions or provide more details – particularly about what will happen to the communities of current residents. 


She said this inquiry would force the government to “come clean” about how this will help alleviate the public housing crisis and the broader housing crisis.

“For years this government has walked away from public housing and treated public housing residents like second-class citizens. With this inquiry we can help change that.

The government claimed the towers were unable to be refurbished and “no longer fit for modern living”. Former Premier Daniel Andrews said in September, “We can’t search for perfection and then not deliver anything; we’ve got to get on and build more houses.

“They’re crumbling, they’ve got to go.” 

But experts have argued the plan, which is not expected to be complete until at least 2050, fails to address the enormous and ever-growing backlog of vulnerable and homeless people on waiting lists for public housing that exists in 2024, let alone what the need will be in 26 years. 

In a joint letter to the government, urban planning experts from RMIT University said a low supply of homes was just one of many factors driving the housing crisis.

“This is occurring alongside a rapid increase in applicants to the Victorian Housing Register, rapid growth in private rental households approaching the specialist homelessness service, rising rents and unaffordability, and decreased funding for crisis services,” the letter read.


The Renters and Housing Union also criticised the plan and said, while it agreed the current public housing was in poor condition and “inadequate”, the plan was a misguided step with too many undefined or unclear details and gaps. For one, we don’t know who these developers, entrusted with the state’s shrinking public land, will be and what their legal requirements and duties are. 

“RAHU considers Labor’s Housing Package a draft. We cannot sign off on ambiguous ideals that have not been entirely determined, and cannot be entirely revealed, and may end up being executed in such a way that ends up harming renters,” it said in a statement.

While experts say this proposal will likely make the housing crisis for all renters worse, “given the simple fact that hundreds of public housing dwellings will be destroyed before the lengthy rebuild program returns any housing to these sites,” for now, the most pressing concern is for the residents who will be displaced and those on the register who will be forced to wait years longer for an affordable home. 

“We could end [the crisis] while rejecting urban sprawl by building up, not out,” RAHU’s spokesperson said.

“We could end it by massively adding to the public housing stock, 10 per cent of all housing in every suburb to put genuine downward pressure on the housing market. 

“We could end it by changing the legal definition of affordable housing to mean ‘no more than 30 per cent of an individual’s income’ so that affordable housing can be genuinely affordable. We could end it by restricting property banking and land banking through forceful acquisition.

“We could end it with a genuine attempt at enforcing regulations. We could end it by putting a cap on rental increases.”

Aleksandra Bliszczyk is the Deputy Editor of VICE Australia. Follow her on Instagram.

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