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The Cat's Out of the Bag

Just in case you’ve been taken in by the propaganda being spewed out of the office of the Minister for Housing, Mr. Martin Foley, regarding how private public partnerships are the way forward for public housing, think again. If the Ashburton public private partnership debacle is anything to go by, continuing to promote these policies will be a disaster for all Victorians.

The Markham public housing estate in Ashburton was the site of 56 public houses. The Labor government has gone into a partnership with a private developer to develop this site. Sixty two small one and two bedroom units will be squeezed into the worst quarter of the site, while 188 luxurious apartments overlooking Gardiners Creek, parkland and a golf course, will be built by the same private developer that builds the 62 public housing units. What is occurring in Ashburton is a template for what will be occurring all over Victoria. The Victorian government is going into public private partnerships that will deliver public housing units into the hands of privately owned community and affordable housing organisations.

The Andrews led government has abandoned all plans for the Victorian government to build and manage public housing. It will rely on private developers to develop public land for the primary benefit of private investors. It has washed its hands of public housing and plans to outsource management of public housing to privately owned and run community and affordable housing associations. Ultimately it wants to transfer the titles of publicly owned houses to these associations.

These policies mirror the policies of the Liberal/National Opposition. The Opposition supports private public partnerships and the transfer of management and titles of public housing to privately owned organisations. The losers will not only be public housing tenants but every Victorian who is concerned about the current affordable housing crisis. The solution to the housing affordability crisis cannot be resolved by transferring management and ownership of public housing to the private sector or by varying first home grants or stamp duty exemptions. The only way to meet this crisis head on is by building more public housing. The more public housing available, the greater the pressure to decrease prices and rents at the lower end of the housing market.

The way to control prices in Australia today is by building a mixed economy. Government intervention acts as a brake on the private sector gouging the public to increase shareholder profits. If there’s one thing that can be learnt from the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Medibank Private, ports, airports, Qantas, electricity, gas, water, childcare and education it’s that, if you give the private sector a monopoly on running the economy, prices will increase and services deteriorate. The Andrews led government faces, at best, going into a coalition with the Victorian Greens (who support public housing) and at worst losing office to a party that will continue to privatise public assets, including public housing in Victoria, unless enough Victorians put pressure on the Andrews led Labor government to radically alter their public housing policies.

Dr. Joseph Toscano / Joint Convener Defend And Extend Public Housing