On Friday November 12th the “No More Band-Aid Solutions: End The Housing Crisis” rally closed down Victorian Housing Minister Richard Wynne’s electoral office in Collingwood. Despite sweltering heat and a looming rainstorm 80 to 100 people joined the protest playing drums and percussion, setting up tents and a clothesline and plastering Wynne’s office windows with band-aids and squatting stickers. Organised by the City Is Ours the rally called for immediate and genuine action against homelessness and housing stress and an end to the Victorian government’s support for profiteering developers and landlords.

Yarra Councillor and Socialist Party candidate for Richmond Steven Jolly outlined the dire state of public housing and called for a mass campaign to end the housing crisis. Indigenous activist Sharon Firebrace spoke about the lack of government action regarding housing for Indigenous Australians as well as how the rising cost of living has resulted from the increased corporatisation of essential services and accomodation.

Annie Nash from Flat Out, an organisation which supports women exiting prison, and Andy, who is a support worker assisting homeless and injecting drug users, both explained how affordable and adequate housing  is central to solving the problems that these communities face. Richard Tate, from the Homeless Front, spoke about how successive Liberal and Australian Labor Party led governments had created homelessness through the privatisation of public housing. In between the speeches the crowd joined in chants such as “1234- Show the ALP the door, 5678- Dick has passed his use-by date”, “Drum Wynne Out!” and “Stamp Duty Sux! Public Housing- Spend More Bucks!”

Little Hotel de Ville, from Community Radio 3CR’s Roominations program, entertained the crowd with acoustic tunes and bush poet Henry Lawson made a comeback from the grave to perform his revolutionary indictment of poverty and homelessness “Faces In The Street.” 100s of leaflets (see text below), as well as watermelon and other delectables, were handed out to the crowd and passers-by.

No More Band-aid Measures: Fix The Housing Crisis

People from all walks of life are affected by the housing crisis. Sole parent families, youth, indigenous people, migrants, people exiting prison, and pensioners are some of the hardest hit, but 100 000s of Victorians are also struggling due to rental and mortgage stress. Now that it’s election time the Victorian ALP is desperate to convince voters that they believe in social justice and care about those suffering under the rising cost of living. However Housing Minister Dick Wynne and the rest of the government must be judged on their record, not on their rhetoric and empty promises.

THE PROBLEM

Over the past eleven years the Victorian ALP has:

  • Sat back while rental and house prices have rocketed, pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars in stamp duty in the process.
  • Failed to invest increased tax revenues into public housing, allowing the waiting list to blow to out to more than 41 000 while existing infrastructure literally crumbles.
  • Allowed the housing shortage to grow to the point where 58 000 people, many of them families with children, were forced to access over-stretched homeless services in Melbourne during 2008-09.
  • Continued Jeff Kennett’s privatization of public housing and services via “public-private” partnerships that allow private developers to make huge profits while the public bears the risk and carries much of the costs.
  • Failed to restore the rental rights abolished by the Kennett government, allowing landlords to ramp up rents at will whilst avoiding their responsibilities concerning the upkeep and repair of properties.
  • Sold off large tracts of outer suburban land cheaply and then allowed developers to leave much of it unused in order to prop up record house prices.
  • Ignored the 1000s of beds lost through rooming house closures and then talked up the opening of one new facility.
  • Set up a toothless Rooming House Taskforce which rarely prosecutes rogue operators and does not require limits on rents, or government acquisition of rooming houses that close.
  • Failed to tackle the speculators who are leaving 1000s of properties empty across Melbourne.

THE SOLUTION

The problems that the ALP, and the Liberals before them, have created can be solved through:

  • Greatly expanded investment in public housing
  • Legislation to limit rent increases
  • An end to illegal evictions
  • An improvement in standards for rooming houses and the prosecution of rogue operators
  • Increased funding for housing cooperatives
  • Support for green housing
  • An end to the privatization and corporatisation of housing.

When you vote in this election please consider which candidates will take real action against the housing crisis and which ones will continue to pour public wealth into the pockets of property developers and private corporations.

Voting alone will not solve the crisis. The City Is Ours is one of a number of community groups taking action around the housing crisis. We work with homeless people, rooming house residents, public housing tenants, struggling renters and other organisations to collectively take action and seek real change on the issues we face. Visit our website at www.melbournecio.org or join us at our next meeting at Community Radio 3CR (21 Smith St, Fitzroy) on Saturday November 27 at 1pm.