It is unacceptable housing conditions that often keep residents stuck in a cycle of long-term disadvantage – they are far more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, impacted by family violence, or living with a disability.
The need for new and redeveloped social housing in the area has never been greater with more than 4000 applications being registered at Housing Victoria’s Broadmeadows office in March 2021 – a significant 21 per cent increase since June 2019.
The Victorian government’s $5.3 billion Big Housing Build, which promises funding for social and affordable housing for people in need, was welcomed as a ray of light, promising a brighter future for one of the state’s most disadvantaged communities.
While the Victorian government has touted this as record funding, Infrastructure Victoria’s recently released 30-year strategy identified a significant shortfall and have said an extra $6.5 billion to $16 billion would be needed by 2031 to meet the national average of 4.5 social housing dwellings for every 100 households. The $5.3 billion committed under the Big Housing Build is well and truly short of this target.
The rollout of funding to date has left the council and many in the local community fearful that the historic neglect of Broadmeadows is on track to be replicated, raising the prospect of devastating consequences for those with the greatest need.
Homes Victoria, the Victorian government agency charged with the delivery of this massive program has launched a number of “fast-start” projects creating new social housing dwellings in the suburbs of Hawthorn, Ascot Vale, Flemington, West Heidelberg, North Richmond and Ashburton.
Without explanation, just two of these fast-start sites, Hawthorn and Ashburton, are actually located in the Victorian government’s self-identified priority local government areas.
Homes Victoria has proven unable or unwilling to adequately explain the selection methodology for these fast-start sites. Or why Broadmeadows has missed out – yet again.
Similarly, despite the Victorian government recognising Broadmeadows as a local government priority area for social housing, Homes Victoria has yet to identify any projects that deliver on the aspiration of the community for modern, affordable and accessible housing that meet the needs of a community as deserving as any other.
The Big Housing Build’s bucket of funding has so far neglected to include a single cent for the area – an unacceptable outcome that has raised the ire of Council and the community.
The people of Broadmeadows deserve much better. Why should our state’s most vulnerable residents be forced to live in these unacceptable conditions?
If the Big Housing Build is to live up to its lofty aspirations, it must prioritise need. And there is no question about the fact that there is no greater need than in Broadmeadows.
The history of broken promises, neglect and generational underinvestment has meant that a suburb touted in numerous state planning documents as the future capital of Melbourne’s north is at serious risk of another generation of disadvantage.
The redevelopment of Broadmeadows’ social housing must be a key Big Housing Build funding priority; not merely an afterthought.
I take the Premier at his word when he says the Big Housing Build program will change lives. It’s time for the Victorian government to see the immense opportunity that the people of Broadmeadows see, right the wrongs of the past and change lives where the need is greatest.
Joseph Haweil is mayor of Hume City Council.