Council endorses bid for Epsom Street housing funding

An innovative social housing project is one step closer after Council endorsed plans to apply for State Government funding for the Epsom Street development in Laverton on Tuesday night.

The project would see low to medium rise dwellings built at 7-45 Epsom Street. It would enable people with a connection to Hobsons Bay on very low to medium incomes who have been priced out of the rental market and are on the housing register waitlist to access affordable housing, rent-capped at a proportion of their earnings.

Council provided approval for the Hobsons Bay Affordable Housing Trust to apply for Victorian Government funding as part of the Social Housing Growth Fund, while also endorsing revised design guidelines that have been updated in response to community feedback that will guide development on the site.

Council bought the former Laverton Primary School site in 2014 with a view to potentially using it for affordable housing and open space. Council later purchased an adjoining residential lot at 45 Epsom Street to enable a more holistic design for the project.

In December 2019, the first stage of the project was delivered when the Curlew Community Park on Epsom Street was opened. The affordable housing is proposed to be built at the north and south ends of the park, with key design criteria requiring protection of the much-loved community space.

Following community consultation in March this year, the housing design guidelines were revised considerably to reflect a range of priorities, including that building height steps down and is sensitive to the park and residential housing around the location, and ensuring good onsite parking provision.

If the state government funding application is successful, the development would be managed and maintained by the Hobsons Bay Affordable Housing Trust, a joint-venture between Council and Housing Choices Australia, one of the largest community housing providers in Australia.

Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Cr Peter Hemphill, said Council was aware that cost of living pressures were rising and rent increases in Hobsons Bay over the past decade were adding to that stress for many of it residents.

“Delivering more social and affordable housing will help make Hobsons Bay a safer, healthier and more equitable place to live, work, study, and play, and the Epsom Street development is a key project in helping us deliver on the priorities we set in our Hobsons Bay Council Plan 2021-25,” Cr Hemphill said.

“We are committed to making sure all residents in our city can live in affordable, secure and appropriate housing that meets their needs, particularly people with low to medium incomes.

“This development won’t just add to the amenity of the local area, it will be built to high architectural design and environmentally sustainable design standards and have a lasting economic impact on the area.”

Deputy Mayor of Hobsons Bay and Wetlands Ward Councillor, Diana Grima, said the benefits of this project would be far-reaching.

“It will create an important legacy, not just for its residents in Laverton, but for the broader Hobsons Bay community,” Cr Grima said.

“Having affordable housing that is safe and secure gives people the chance to pursue employment and educational opportunities that they might otherwise not have been able to. That can be life-changing.

“Not only does it help people live happier and healthier lives, it also creates a better, stronger and more vibrant local society and economy, which everyone benefits from.”

Wetlands Ward Councillor, Matt Tyler, said this was a project that had been shaped by the local community because it was a project for the local community.

“We’re doing this because we want to help address homelessness by increasing the supply of affordable housing. Homelessness is a really big challenge – particularly in the west – with more than 9,000 households on the Victorian Housing Register,” Cr Tyler said.

“Extensive community consultation has helped guide the proposal to what it is today, with revised design guidelines based on community feedback, including changes to building height, improved car parking arrangements, vehicle access and a clearer delineation between the housing and the public park. There will be further opportunities for input from the community in the future.”

Hobsons Bay Citizen of the Year, Kate De Marco, said the Epsom Street housing development was about inclusion.

“I see the community as a big colourful puzzle – no two pieces are alike but put together they create a beautiful picture. When the measure of living somewhere isn’t based solely on the number of zeros in your bank account, then as a whole community we become richer for the diversity,” Ms De Marco said.

“Hobsons Bay is a generous, kind, compassionate community, and the provision of social housing indicates that we value and respect everyone’s right to have choice around where they call home.”

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