Over the years many individuals and families stayed in the Wonthaggi Miners Rest Caravan Park because they had nowhere else to go. The local housing agency also relied on it when emergency houses were full.
For many years there were rumours about the park closing and eventually in 2019 it was really happening. The Wonthaggi Branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union took an active role in the lead up to the closure advocating for the residents who were to be evicted from the caravan park. Some members of the union lived in the caravan park and were faced with the challenge of where to find a home. Although officially everyone was rehoused we understand that not all the options were sustainable.
In February 2020 a public meeting drew 50 community members to hear speakers from Melbourne-based Defend and Extend Public Housing advocacy group and to discuss the housing issues in the Bass Coast Shire brought to a head by the caravan park closure.
Since the closure of the caravan park, low interest rates, an exodus from the city to the country, and a fear of missing out on real estate have made safe, secure and affordable housing even less atbtainable for many people.
The ongoing acceptance in our country that it’s okay to make a profit out of shelter has created a cut-throat rental and purchasing market with low levels of public housing investment.
Local people are at risk of having to leave the community where they have support and where they want to continue living and working. They are also at risk of homelessness, whether that means couch surfing, living in a car or a friend’s shed or erecting a tent somewhere in the bush.
Last November the Victorian State Government announced the Big Housing Build and allocated $25 million to the Bas Coast Shire, but details have been sketchy. This announcement did not assist the person who wrote to the Sentinel Times last month. The letter ‘Homeless Left Waiting’ explained that they were due to be evicted from their rental home on that same day and had nowehre to go to.
Housing Matters public meeting, Saturday December 4, 1-3 pm, at the Wonthaggi Baptist Church in McBride Avenue. Speakers include:
Housing Matters also wants to provide feedback to the Bass Coast Shire’s Affordable Housing Strategy that is due for release and the Bass Coast Shire’s review of its Planning Scheme due in 2022 to promote housing innovation and diversity to encourage affordability, community interaction and low-impact design.
There are also numerous opportunities for lobbying and advocacy. Public housing properties, especially the established homes, do not usually have solar generated electricity or hot water so tenants on limited incomes are struggling with high gas bills rather than benefitting from free energy from the sun.
And there is always a need for agitating for more emergency and short term shelter options.
Perhaps there is sufficient financial interest in the area to establish a Bass Coast Housing Co-operative that attracts public and private funding to develop public housing and/or affordable housing that is relevant for the local area. As an example rent to buy properties are one way to assist people to enter the housing market. Housing co-operatives are active in many other places so it is a realistic goal.
Housing Matters will hold a public meeting on Saturday December 4, 1-3 pm, at the Wonthaggi Baptist Church in McBride Avenue. Speakers include Jordan Crugnale, Bass Labor MP; Greg Thompson, co-ordinator of Phillip Island Community & Learning Centre; and Iain Ritchie, co-ordinator of Wonthaggi Neighbourhood Centre. Come along and meet other residents who are concerned about the housing crisis.
Helen Searle is a member of Housing Matters.