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The Melbourne Tower is wrongly targeted at residents of social housing who are already at risk Urban Planning

This week, the Victorian government unilaterally placed “hard lock” on the residents of nine public apartment blocks in downtown Melbourne because of the “explosive potential” of increasing COVID-19 cases.

Originally) released on The conversation – July 6th, 2020
Authors: David Kelly, Kate Shaw, Libby Porter


The closure requires that all residents of these lands remain in their homes for at least five days, exposing some 3,000 residents to special punitive measures that do not apply to anyone in Victoria. Residents are “stagger”.

The closure is enforced by a significant police presence on the property, with officers on every floor, without warning and with immediate effect. Other outbreak areas were notified more than 24 hours in advance for a similar number of people Coronavirus cases.

Outbreaks in wealthier areas, like that Mornington Peninsulawere not met with the same harsh restrictions.

Emma King, managing director of the Victorian Council of Social Service, described the blockade as “like a crime scene”. A pandemic response shouldn’t be a crime scene. It is a collective public health problem that no one is immune to.

The government justifies this measure by saying that residents of social housing are at risk and live in high density with many common areas. The latter applies to every large apartment building in Melbourne.

The Toorak to Broadmeadows quarantine should look the same if we follow the public health guidelines. If living conditions in public housing are more risky than elsewhere, we have to ask why.

If it is true that Communities in living stress are more susceptible to pandemics, we have to ask how and why this should be the case in such a privileged country as Australia.

Public housing has been suffering for decades

What is happening in Melbourne this week is the product of a punishable public housing system, the residents of which have been neglected for decades. The “vulnerable” status that governments so cheerfully apply to tenants of social housing is no coincidence.

The vulnerability is not an objective condition, but the result of a system that is geared towards inequality and made possible by political decisions. Public housing in Victoria is the result of decades of neglect, disinvestment and stigmatization by governments and the media.

The number of social housing in Victoria has been falling in real terms for at least two decades fewer apartments in 2019 (64,428) than in 2009 (65,064). Victoria has it lowest proportion of public housing in all Australian states.

At the same time, the number of people affected by homelessness and housing insecurity in Victoria has increased increased up to 100,000 according to waiting lists. Repeated Inquiries and reports indicate insufficient investment, poor maintenance and lack of strategy. Overfilling is a function of a broken system.

These conditions feed directly into a narrative of decline that is used to stigmatize, detain, restrict, and suppress residents of social housing.

It is no coincidence that the goods under block are also intended for “socially mixed”. Rehabilitation and privatizationThis will disband existing communities and offer even fewer places for those with the lowest incomes.

There are alternatives to a hard lock

The blockade of social housing is already a police intervention in one cross-police community. There is now welcome evidence of this Commitment to social services, but this comes as a secondary consideration.

The residents of the affected towers do not need any further police work. They have community-based and grassroots organizations like RISE who have been actively involved as members of the community. The peak in cases requires a health response, not a police response.

The Victorian government didn’t have to look far for existing models like this COVID-19 response led by the Aboriginal people across Australia, showing the effectiveness of community-led initiatives.

The most effective models for providing social housing on a scale that can meet the need are also very famous to policy makers and scientists. However, this government continues to pursue a policy that Reduction of available social housing.

What Victoria needs is more and better quality of public housing and supportive community building practices that give everyone the same dignity. Let us trust those who live in social housing.

Providing the right information in the right language with trusting relationships with the government and other agencies could deal with this public health crisis in a just and equitable manner. As it seems in all other parts of Victorian society.

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