Mary-Faeth Chenery

A well-attended community forum on housing in Hepburn Shire, organised by Safe Place Homes Inc, has heard a range of calls for new thinking about what can be done to ensure that everyone has an appropriate and affordable home in our community. The need for more affordable housing in the Shire is not in question – all the statistics, reports and local knowledge confirm the shortage and the difficulties caused by the lack of housing.

Mayor, Cr Tim Drylie spoke to the meeting about the Council’s current work to develop an affordable housing strategy and action plan, the development of new affordable housing in Creswick and the possibility of cohousing as ways to provide more social and affordable housing. He also talked about the need for affordable housing to be energy efficient in order to keep costs down.

Rob Pradolin, founder of Housing for All Australians [HAA], described the wisdom and benefits of looking at housing through a commercial lens. (His background is in the private housing development sector.).He noted that government listens to economic strategy and offered the view that subsidised housing should be seen as economic infrastructure for a prosperous country – and as infrastructure, should be better funded by government. A recent report commissioned by Housing All Australians has demonstrated that ‘Every $1 the Australian community invests in social and affordable housing will deliver $2 in benefits. This rate of return is comparable to, or better than, those achieved in many other major Australian infrastructure investments.’ (See

Mr Pradolin also commented that while the private sector does work for profit, they are also motivated by purpose and do want to contribute to the solution for the housing crisis. It is important to develop trust between developers and local government in order to address housing needs.

Housing All Australians is working toward four aims at this time:

Rob said that community members need to engage in ‘respectful unrest’ to communicate to politicians that we are serious about the need for government to support housing for all. He pointed out that without ‘respectful unrest’ there will never be ‘political self-interest’. Politicians need to be convinced that voters seriously want housing for all to be addressed and funded.

Rob showed the trailer for a new documentary on the housing crisis for older women:  UnderCover – The Documentary, to be released at the Melbourne Film Festival in August. It’s a very moving portrayal of the dire situation of potential homelessness that as many as 400,000 older women in Australia face now or will face soon. He encouraged us to follow Housing All Australians on social media and to share the report, Give Me Shelter, with our local community and politicians.

David Holmgren, local resident and co-originator of Permaculture, spoke about the need to understand what is going on in the housing realm from the perspective of a ‘limits of growth crisis’. His work, described in his book RetroSuburbia, illustrates new strategies for cooperative living, for example, by sharing our houses and owning our power, and by reconsidering ‘how much do I really need?’ We need more permanent long term relationships, instead of today’s many ‘network nomads’.

David suggested that there is much we can do in our own neighbourhoods to develop relationships with one another and to use the natural areas for shared food production and restored landscapes. He illustrated some creative use of infill development to allow for more accommodation as well as gardens.

Safe Place will continue to work on a range of solutions to increase the supply and quality of social and affordable housing in Hepburn Shire. We have working groups on small footprint housing (including adding small units on existing house blocks), shared spaces (increasing options within multi-bedroom homes, studio units within single dwellings), rent options (encouraging more long term rentals, helping with the gap between affordable and market rent), increasing use of existing buildings (unoccupied homes and buildings) and land searching. Safe Place also works with Hepburn Shire Council on housing matters and is committed to assuring the development and implementation of a comprehensive Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan for the Shire.

Safe Place is a voluntary community organisation advocating for affordable housing for all in Hepburn Shire. We welcome new members to help find ways to assure that everyone has a home. To learn more about how you might help, email Safe Place at

Mary-Faeth Chenery, PhD, is a Daylesford resident and the Vice-president of Safe Place Housing Inc.