I called an old friend tonight, a friend who used to live in the police residence at 15 Camp St, Daylesford. I asked her how long it had been since she moved from there. Seven years in August, she said. Seven years a perfectly good family home, government owned, in the centre of Daylesford, has been vacant when people are in desperate need for housing. The old police station next door has also been vacant for many years.
Safe Place Homes Inc, a citizen-led advocacy group in Hepburn, had both buildings assessed several years ago in the hope that they could be used by a community housing agency to offer social housing to folks in need. The police station, we were told, could easily be converted to two units, and the house was in fine shape for a residence.
Safe Place talked with Council, asking whether they could intervene in the government land transfer process so that a community housing agency could make use of the buildings. We’ve been talking with Council about this for many years now but we have made little progress.
15 Camp St is listed on the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) website as a site ‘being prepared for sale’. It has been that way for years. According to the trail of information, the site has now been rezoned from public use to general residential. Selling crown land involves this process:
Before being listed for public sale, surplus land is offered through a ‘first right of refusal’ process to all other Victorian Government departments and agencies as well as to local government and the Commonwealth Government. This process allows for surplus government land to be considered for community use, or for an alternative public service need, before it is released for sale on the open market. – Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance
If these levels of government don’t want it (they didn’t), then it goes for public sale at a price determined by the Valuer General of Victoria. Sometimes other matters need to be considered before land goes on sale, for example, issues of cultural heritage.
But Safe Place Homes believes the review should go back to basics and consider public values, as the DTF guidelines indicate in their policy framework:
Ensuring public value is the overarching objective of government land use
Government land can be used for public benefit countless times, but only sold once.
Public value can be enhanced by considering the following themes: …
- Social. Equity of access to health, housing, education and recreational space, and improved local amenity and social inclusion. For Traditional Owner groups access to land is an integral part of their future sustainability, self-reliance and community prosperity.
For seven years these properties have remained vacant. Seven years as the undeniable housing crisis in Hepburn Shire has grown. Surely the residence could be leased to a community housing provider to rent to a family on a monthly basis while the sale or transfer is being finalised. Better still, Housing Victoria could reconsider purchasing the properties and making them available to needy families. We ask our government representatives to give these possibilities serious consideration.