Affordable, Portable Homes to be Built on Vacant Government Land
Wednesday, 11th January 2017
at 3:54 pm
Ellie Cooper, Journalist
Wednesday, 11th January 2017 at 3:54 pm
In a landmark collaboration between not-for-profit organisation Launch Housing, philanthropists and the Victorian government, vacant land will provide affordable homes to people priced out of the rental market.
More than 50 one-bedroom homes will be built on nine parcels of vacant land, belonging to VicRoads, in Melbourne’s inner west, in what has been called a “roadmap” to tackle affordable housing.
Under the model, the portable units can be relocated to other available sites should the existing land need to be returned to its owner.
Philanthropist Brad Harris, along with his father and Flight Centre co-founder Geoff Harris, gave $4 million to fund most of the building costs.
He told Pro Bono News the attraction of the project was its “huge scalability”.
“It’s one thing to pour money into homeless services or one-off projects, but this is, in my eyes, a proof of concept of a new economic model that can be scaled up beyond the initial 57 houses to really make a dent in the affordable housing, social housing situation,” Harris said.
He said the partnership could be adopted by other government and non-government bodies with blocks of vacant land.
“What’s innovative about this is that it does unlock the value of unused government land,” he said.
“VicRoads won’t allow you to build permanent structures on land holdings set aside for future road use, because they’re obviously going to need it, [but] they will allow transportable dwellings such as these to go on there.”
“When they come to the need of building that road, they [the houses] can be loaded on the back of trucks and moved to the next area of available land, whether it’s government, church, privately owned, there’s lots of available land out there. We just need to get better at utilising it.”
Under the agreement, the Department of Health and Human Services will hold the lease, set at peppercorn rent, and sublet the land to Launch Housing.
The lease will be set for an initial period of five years, with a 12-month notice to vacate clause if VicRoads requires the land.
Launch Housing also guaranteed to rehouse the tenants if they need to be relocated.
The deputy CEO and director of services at Launch Housing, Dr Heather Holst, said the 57 houses would support single adults and couples who are at risk of homelessness due to the rental affordability crisis.
“Single adults are one of the largest groups of people currently experiencing great difficulty accessing and maintaining affordable housing right now,” Holst said.
“This new partnership with VicRoads will allow us to offer accommodation to people who really need a break. They can’t get into private rental due to the high costs and they often don’t qualify or have to wait up to a decade to access public housing.”
Harris encouraged other donors to see social housing as a sector that requires a whole-of-community response.
“Homelessness in this country is not acceptable and the main cause of homelessness currently is not mental health or drug and alcohol use, it’s people just can’t afford rent or housing,” he said.
“As a nation we need to do more to provide affordable and social housing, and this is one way to achieve it.”
The initiative, announced Wednesday, comes as the City of Melbourne removes homeless people from the CBD ahead of the Australian Open.
Council officers and Victoria Police advised homeless people camping illegally outside of Flinders Street Station to move on, according to ABC reports.
While sleeping rough in Melbourne is legal, it is illegal to camp in a public place.
According to the City of Melbourne, the operation is a routine clean up.
“We will continue to work with homelessness agencies to improve public amenity and safety in this area and to try and find suitable alternative living arrangements,” a spokesperson said in a statement to the ABC.
On Tuesday, the council also removed a camp underneath Sandridge Bridge, which connects the CBD and Southbank.