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Affordable housing development to put roofs over heads of struggling local families

Published: 21 July 2016

Council has given approval for a vacant block of land in Pakenham to be used to build a high-quality affordable housing development.

The decision, made at Monday night's council meeting, paves the way to start planning a development to house vulnerable families and help address the shortage of affordable housing in Cardinia Shire.

The vacant Council-owned land is located on the corner of Storey Drive and Redfern Way, Pakenham.

Council will select a not-for-profit housing association provider to deliver the project. The provider will be chosen once Council considers proposals submitted by interested parties.

The selected provider will be required to engage extensively with the local community to get their input into the planned development and to ensure residents understand how it will operate and help its tenants.

The provider will be responsible for constructing, managing and maintaining the facility, and for selecting tenants and providing them with ongoing support.

The number of dwellings in the development will be determined once the appointed housing association provider comes up with a development plan and consults with the community.

A decision on whether the land will be sold or leased for the development will also be made based on the recommendation of the chosen provider.

Mayor Cr Jodie Owen said it was vital that Council take decisive action to tackle the extreme shortage of affordable housing in Cardinia Shire.

“Sadly, many of our residents are experiencing financial hardship, social disadvantage, relationship breakdowns and family violence. The high number of people affected means local service providers are really struggling to meet the demand for affordable accommodation options and sustainable rental support,” Cr Owen said.

“This development is a step in the right direction to help pave a better path for some of the many families with children doing it tough in our shire.”

Cr Owen said when many people think of housing for vulnerable people, they think of “ugly, high density commission housing.

“This is absolutely not what we are talking about here.

“This will be a high-quality, architecturally-designed, low-to-medium density housing development that will blend in beautifully with the surrounding area,” Cr Owen said.

“It will need to meet all planning permit requirements, just like any other development.

“The councillors fully support the proposal, but we will only continue to do so as long as the planned development meets these high standards,” Cr Owen said.

The housing association provider chosen will select tenants based on strict eligibility criteria and in consultation with local housing agencies.

The provider, along with local support services, will then ensure tenants have ongoing access to referral services, outreach programs and other support services until they are back on their feet.

Council’s General Manager of Community Wellbeing Jenny Scicluna said the development proposal was conceived after extensive research.

“The research clearly showed we are facing a housing crisis in Cardinia Shire, and this is backed up by the many local support agencies that see evidence of it every day,” Jenny said.

“This is a problem that isn’t going away, so the land’s sale or lease conditions will stipulate that the development must always be used to accommodate struggling families in Cardinia Shire.”

Cr Owen said that when the proposal was first brought to Council last year, it was strongly championed by the then mayor, Cr Leticia Wilmot, and strongly supported by all nine councillors.

“We are proud of this planned project. It is much needed – too many people in our community are living in insecure housing, sleeping rough or staring down the barrel of homelessness. We cannot simply stand by and watch this happen.”

Cr Owen emphasised the need for residents to warmly welcome the development’s future tenants.

“This development will only be a success if residents completely support the future residents. In order to get back on their feet, it is vital that the tenants feel part of the local community.”

Cr Owen said Council had a social responsibility to look after the wellbeing of residents.

“Like family violence, housing affordability is a huge issue in our shire and with our population growing so quickly, the situation is only set to worsen. We cannot simply ignore it and hope it goes away – it needs to be addressed, and fast.

“It’s a sad fact that many Australians are only one unfortunate event away from homelessness. Many are plunged into this nightmare when they suddenly lose their job, suffer an injury or illness, or are faced with an unexpected expense.

“The reality is, it could happen to any one of us,” Cr Owen said.