Public housing looms as key Yarra issue in upcoming federal poll 

THE Fitzroy and North Richmond public housing estates project has emerged as a key election issue as the Greens prepare to battle the ALP at the federal polls in September.

Melbourne MHR Adam Bandt, who in 2010 became the first Green to win a seat in the federal lower house, told MTW the ALP had failed in its duty to stand up for public housing residents. 

‘‘Unfortunately, the previous Labor government and now the Liberals have been infected with the ‘economic rationalist’ fantasy that public housing should be self-funding and that if it can’t pay its way it should be sold off to the private sector,’’ Mr Bandt said.

As part of its redevelopment of the Fitzroy, North Richmond and Prahran estates, the state government wants to include up to 50 per cent private housing to increase diversity and social inclusion. Shops and offices could also be built as part of the redevelopment. 

Yarra City Council has long been critical of the government,  claiming it has been locked out of consultation.

Richmond MLA and opposition housing spokesman, Richard Wynne, scoffed at Mr Bandt’s comments, saying he had never seen anyone ‘‘so ill at ease’’ around public-housing tenants.

‘‘His cynical attempt to find relevance with public-housing tenants is self-evident,’’ Mr Wynne said.  ‘‘The Labor Party has always stood shoulder to shoulder with public housing residents and will continue to do so.’’

Mr Bandt will go head-to-head with ALP’s Cath Bowtell, who challenged for the seat of Melbourne in 2010.

 The fight for the seat is expected to be fierce; Melbourne had been an ALP stronghold for more than 100 years before the Greens’ victory. The Greens won with a substantial swing of 13.4 per cent while the ALP suffered a backlash of 11.4 per cent.

Alicia Byrne, spokeswoman for Housing Minister Wendy Lovell, said the former ALP state government committed to a masterplan for public housing redevelopment with a component of private  housing in return for federal funding.

 ‘‘The inclusion of private housing is not an option. It is a requirement of the agreement,’’ she said.

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