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‘Derelict’ Carlton towers to be demolished and rebuilt in federal housing fund’s first project

Two vacant public housing towers in Melbourne’s inner-north will demolished to make way for at least 230 new energy-efficient apartments, in the first project to use the federal government’s $2bn social housing accelerator fund.

Anthony Albanese announced the redevelopment on Tuesday alongside the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, and praised the Victorian government for not “flogging off” the land to developers.

The existing red-brick towers in Carlton were built in the 1960s and consist of 196 dwellings. But they were vacated earlier this year due to what the prime minister described as “problems with sewage” that made them “impossible to upgrade”.

Former residents of the towers will be invited to return to live in the new homes. The dwellings will also be offered to public housing tenants affected by other redevelopments.

Andrews said the project would boost the social housing stock at the site by at least 10%.

“We will demolish those towers and build something infinitely better,” the premier said.

“They are old, they are out of date, they are no longer fit for purpose. They are derelict. There’s no one living there – residents moved out earlier this year. It’s fenced off.”

Prime minister Anthony Albanese (right) and Victorian premier Daniel Andrews arrive to speak to reporters in Carlton. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Albanese referred to decisions by former New South Wales governments to sell public housing dwellings in Millers Point and the Sirius Building as he praised Andrews for committing to social housing at the Carlton site.

“An option of a less visionary government than this bloke’s would be [to] flog it off, knock it over. Private developers would benefit,” he said.

“I campaigned against it in places like Miller’s point in Sydney, where dilapidated places got sold off, flogged off to the private sector. Buildings like the Sirius Building, the famous building next to the Harbour Bridge, that was purpose built for people with disabilities – sold off.

“What this is about is giving people housing close to health facilities, where they can walk to the city, close to education facilities, giving them that security. And it’s just the first of a range of projects that we’ll be doing in partnership here with the Victorian government.”

Anthony Albanese and Daniel Andrews at the announcement on Tuesday.
Anthony Albanese and Daniel Andrews at the announcement on Tuesday. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

The Carlton redevelopment will make up a significant portion of the 769 homes Victoria has been funded to deliver as part of the housing accelerator fund, which was announced in June in an effort to convince the Greens to support Labor’s housing Australia future fund (Haff).

Under the fund, Victoria receives $500m for new housing that must be publicly-owned. However, it remains unclear whether the government will operate the sites or whether this will be done by agencies, which is commonly referred to as “social” or “community housing”.

Katelyn Butterss, the chief executive of the Victorian Public Tenants Association, welcomed the announcement, describing it as a “positive step towards growing housing supply” in the state.

“When this $2bn was announced the prime minister was very clear – it’s for public housing. We are still awaiting clarification that the housing commitments announced today will be publicly owned and publicly managed,” Butterss said.

“We are cautiously optimistic but it will be extremely disappointing if the management of these tenancies is once again referred to the community housing sector.”

She called on the Victorian government to include further initiatives to grow the number of public housing dwellings in the state in its housing statement, which is set to be released Wednesday.

The site of the towers on Nicholson Street in Carlton.
The site of the towers on Nicholson Street in Carlton. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Andrews confirmed a special state cabinet meeting will be held late on Tuesday afternoon to sign off on the first part of the statement, which could include a levy on short-stay accommodation.

“We’ll be back before you quite a bit over the next few days and weeks making lots of announcements,” he told reporters.

“One of the items on the agenda will be whether or not to introduce a statewide, consumer-facing levy on short-stay accommodation providers like Airbnb. If adopted, the levy would be the first statewide tax of its kind in Australia.”

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