News / Housing

Car park set to be transformed into affordable housing

It is estimated a new affordable housing program will deliver $49 million in community benefit

This car park will be transferred to the new affordable housing organisation.

Mark Phillips
Monday, September 13, 2021

PART of an under-utilised public car park will be transferred by Moreland Council to a not-for-profit organisation to provide new affordable housing in central Brunswick.

The council last week approved the “sale” of the land in Wilkinson Street, valued at $4.1 million, for the development of at least 30 new dwellings.

About a third of the public car park, made up of 16 public parking spaces and 16 spaces allocated to local traders, will be redeveloped.

A report presented to councillors forecast that the transfer of the land to Moreland Affordable Housing, a not-for-profit organisation established with the council’s support in 2017, would generate a social and economic return of $48.7 million.

No money will change hands for the land. Instead, MAH must agree to provide 85% of dwellings on the site for affordable and social housing, and to complete construction within four years. If those conditions are not met, ownership of the land will revert back to the council.

MAH and the council have been in negotiations for two years about allocating and developing the parcel of land behind the Bunnings and La Manna block on Sydney Road for affordable housing.

Moreland Affordable Housing was established in November 2017 to help counter an anticipated shortfall of between 7000 and 10,000 affordable dwellings in Moreland over the next 15 years. The investment required to overcome this shortfall is estimated at between $3.1 billion and $4.5 billion.

Moreland is listed as one of 21 local government priority areas for investment of $5.3 billion of state government investment in social and affordable housing.

“The provision of more than 30 safe and affordable homes will provide life-enhancing outcomes for residents who will be able to actively contribute to the social, economic and cultural life of Moreland,” the council report said.

A map showing the site of the proposed affordable housing development.

Deputy Mayor Mark Riley said the affordable housing project had been years in the making.

“This is not my preferred model of running affordable housing but I’m happy to see this as the first step forward in what we hope will be a pipeline of affordable housing that we do,” he said.

“This is an area of work that councils don’t normally get into but because of the lack of investment by state and federal governments over such a long period in public housing we feel like we need to do this and utilise our land to instigate this kind of structure and approach to housing.”

Cr Sue Bolton said it was critical for there to be affordable rental housing in Brunswick otherwise residents would be pushed to the outer suburbs by gentrification, while Cr James Conlan said without council action, there was a risk of Moreland becoming divided between “the haves in the inner city and leafy suburbs and have nots in the urban fringes”.

But two councillors – Oscar Yildiz and Helen Pavlidis – sided with opponents of the proposal to vote against it.

About half of the 140 written submissions received by the council during a consultation period in July and August were opposed to the land being used for affordable housing with concerns about the loss of parking being a common theme.

Objector Tom Vasilopoulos urged the council to maintain public car parking on one level of whatever is developed on the site.

“There’s a high demand for public car parking in the Brunswick activity centre,” he said at Wednesday’s council meeting.

“The loss of the 32 car parking spaces will create traffic congestion [and] limit availability of public car parking for community and especially the vulnerable and elderly who rely on public car parking.”

Cr Lambros Tapinos supported the affordable housing proposal but said the council would also need to explore alternative parking options for shoppers.

“I really hope that this project takes off and attracts the investment from the state government that it deserves but I do think that issues that were raised in regards to car parking [and] around street management can also be taken on as part of the planning application process,” he said.

MAH’s purpose is “to provide either directly or through partnership with other organisations, a range affordable accommodation options in the City of Moreland”. The council has provided $753,000 in financial support to help the organisation get off the ground.

The organisation is a facilitator and developer of affordable housing, but the Brunswick project will be managed in partnership with a regional Victorian organisation called Haven Home Safe.

The Brunswick project will be the organisation’s first. It is still scouting locations in Glenroy and Coburg for future developments.