Local residents were shocked to discover the Victorian Government proposal to replace two to three storeys walk-up flats with towers up to 12-storeys high as part of the redevelopment of a public housing estate at Bills Street in Hawthorn.

Mayor of Boroondara, Councillor Phillip Healey, said the Victorian Government’s proposal only seeks to increase public housing on site by 10 per cent with the remainder of the development comprising private dwellings.

“10 per cent increase of public housing is nowhere near enough to address the public housing crisis in Victoria,” Cr Healey said.

“We need more public housing in Boroondara. We have less public housing than the surrounding eastern region and Metropolitan Melbourne: 1.3 per cent of Boroondara dwellings are social housing, compared to 2.0 per cent of the Eastern Metropolitan Region dwellings, and 3.5 per cent of dwellings across all 31 metropolitan Melbourne Local Government Areas.

“Why is the Victorian Government selling off public land to developers instead of addressing the critical shortage of public housing? Once it’s converted to private housing, we can never get it back.

“If this is the Victorian Government’s plan to tackle the crisis, then they are planning to fail. The only winner will be the developers who profit from our public housing crisis.

“We are also concerned by the Victorian Government’s claim that their public and private housing model is supporting integration. Recent research by Melbourne University has shown that their approach to public housing redevelopment is not working, it actually segregates communities.”

Gardiner ward councillor, Coral Ross, said the Victorian Government’s proposed building scale was outrageous and out of character.

“The highest building around the site is only five storeys. We are dumbfounded by the proposal to build towers up to 12-storeys high. The towers will be visible for kilometres and will seriously impact on the amenity of its neighbours,” said Cr Ross

“Council has conveyed its wish to remain the responsible authority for considering and determining any planning application for the site. But, we fear that the Victorian Government will make this a ‘captain’s call’ and take the planning controls away from us, disenfranchising the community and their right to object and to an independent appeal process,” Cr Ross said.

Council officers will prepare their assessment of the Victorian Government’s proposal and present it to an upcoming Urban Planning Special Committee.

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