Yarra Council opposes loss of open space in social housing plan

JD
Updated May 18 2022 - 12:27pm, first published May 17 2022 - 5:00am
A sign on Elizabeth St about the Big Housing Build project. Photo: Morgan Hancock.
A sign on Elizabeth St about the Big Housing Build project. Photo: Morgan Hancock.

Yarra City Council is backing the objections of public housing activists to the construction of hundreds of social and affordable apartments in North Richmond.

The state government is planning up to 800 new dwellings as part of a revitalisation of the North Richmond housing estate under its 'Big Housing Build' initiative.

In a motion responding to the plan last week, councillors welcomed the government's proposed investment but indicated they were opposed to any loss of open space and wanted new housing built there to be government-owned.

The council had earlier heard from Jack Verdon, from Friends of Public Housing, who said social and affordable housing was not comparable to public housing and would be of no real benefit to people most urgently in need of accommodation.

Liberal candidate for the state seat of Richmond, Lucas Moon, told the council the plan would see an area of 13,300 square metres of open space - the equivalent of 10 and half Olympic swimming pools - disappear from the estate.

In supporting the motion, independent councillor Steve Jolly described the area as "the most densely populated part of this continent".

"We are all in favour of more housing for underprivileged people but why put it there? There's plenty of other places...here in Yarra that they could put it on."

Planning Minister Richard Wynne earlier this month told the Inner East Review that the land to the north of Elizabeth St, where part of the housing would be built, was "not open space as such" while the "very big grounds" on the south side of Elizabeth Street would benefit from much-needed landscaping as part of the development.

The minister rejected the idea that social housing did not fulfil the role of public housing, saying he was "tired of the argument".

"My responsibility is to look after [residents of public housing] but also to address the question of people who do not have a home," he said.

Cr Herschel Landes, who voted against the motion, said he "strongly lauded" the government for what it was doing. "My view is that it's welcomed by the residents," he said.

(It was incorrectly reported in the print edition that the housing would all be built on the north side of Elizabeth St.)

JD

Jenny Denton

Journalist

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