May Day Housing Action

At 1.30pm on May 1st 2010 activists from the City Is Ours dropped a banner reading “Rising Rents = Rising Homeless” from the seventh floor of an overpriced apartment block across from Flinders Street train station. The action was taken in solidarity with similar events being held across the US by the Take Back The Land group ( and highlighted the rental rip offs taking place in Melbourne, including landlords charging $480 a week for tiny spaces in the building from which the banner was hung. Passersby, including a huge contingent of the undead taking part in a Zombie walk, gave the banner the thumbs up. Flyers highlighting the human cost of the city’s rental crisis (text below) were also handed out.

What percentage of your wages is spent on rent?

The housing crisis is affecting everyone. We all know someone with a horror story about housing prices.

Melbourne’s population has grown by almost 150,000 in the past two years and one quarter of Melbourne’s population pay rent. This means that landlords and real estate agents have been able to jack up the prices of rental accommodation.

A report just released by the National Housing Supply Council states that the housing shortage has reached 200,000 homes, while at the same time one in ten properties in Australia are being left vacant!

The percentage of our income we spend on housing has sky-rocketed. More than 160,000 households are paying more than half their income on housing repayments and 170,000 paying more than half their income on rent!

There are over 15,000 homeless people in Melbourne. For many people, homelessness is not temporary.

Some rooming house operators are taking advantage of the situation by setting up short term rooms for very high rents in appalling conditions. In January 2008 three international students died in a rooming house fire in Footscray. The students were “hot-bedding”, that is, they shared rooms and took shifts to sleep because they could not afford their own bedrooms. In 2009, there were about 150 Indian students hot-bedding in the City of Moreland alone. In 2007, two people died in a Brunswick rooming house fire.

We are taking this action because we don’t want to see our rent money going to dodgy landlords who take no responsibility for our homes. Because we don’t want public housing privatised through Public Private Partnerships, and because everyone has a right to live somewhere with dignity. Because rising rents mean rising homelessness and the rental rip off must stop.