From Melbourne to Barcelona: housing in crisis

[Editor’s Note: Broadcast on Paradigm Shift (4zzz Fm 102.1 Friday 10 Aug 2012 at Noon)]

Rhonda from West End Community House
Photo by Owain Jones
[Click image to go to Corey Green’s interview and notes]
From Melbourne to Barcelona there is a housing crisis — this affects the poor, the young, the ‘differently-abled’, the aged and infirm.

The crisis takes the form of high rents and poor accommodation, lack of security at home.

One response to the housing crisis has been the occupy movement in new York. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) resulted in people being kicked out of their homes, yet the homeless did not go to Washington to protest to the President, they went to New York, mores specifically they went to the seat of the crisis, the financial hub of America, of the West, of the world —they went to Wall Street. They were not a protest movement, they were an occupation — whatever you think of their slogan ‘we are the 99%’ they were effective in highlighting the money games of the USA and how that game affect the poor and the homeless.

Interview by Steve Riggall of Teresa Radburn about attempted sale of the Monte Carlo Caravan Park by the government

When Occupy was kicked out of Zuccoti Park — they moved to other areas — occupying workplaces, apartment buildings, business’s.

Interview by Corey Green with Kathy and Rhonda about the cuts to West End Community Centre

That did not happen here in Australia, or at least not on any scale. Some seamen, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members, occupied a ship so they could improve horrible conditions at sea on long haul container ships.

So what has the Qld government done to alleviate then housing crisis? Their first proposal is to sell the state owned caravan arks that were bought in 1992 to provided affordable housing. Down at Cannon Hill this proposal means that 300 self sufficient home owners will be kicked out on the street, in other words, the government ins proposing to increase (not diminish) the pressure on housing statewide. The are two other caravan parks hat developers have got their eyes on.

One is a Wombye — a sleepy town off the Bruce Highway near Maroochydore, famous for its pineapples. But since Heinz bought the Golden Circle cannery in 2008 Pineapple farms  are being replaced by housing and other industries. Much of the work done at the factory has be discontinued or moved offshore. So what is to replace the farms? What once were  pineapple farms, are now acreage properties and gated communities. MacMansions flourish while workers commute to services jobs on the Sunshine Coast or as far away as the big smoke, Brisbane. As with Monte Carlo Caravan Park Wombye Gardens Caravan park received an upgrade in 2010.

Interview by Corey Green with Wendy from the Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service about the cuts

This is what the local member, Peter Wellington, had to say about the upgrade:

“This has been a great resolution for many people in need of affordable accommodation, and I have urged the Minister and members of her department to purchase an additional caravan park in our area to again help ease the accommodation crisis.”

Last night I attended a meeting of park residents at Cannon Hill. It was a very positive meeting, the people in the park have set up a residents committwee and will defend the park against this attack by government. These people are not renters, they own their own vans and manufactured houses, they pay site fees and the park has been covering all its running costs till recently when new management took over creating wastage.

A couple of years ago the government decided to upgrade the roads in the Monte Carlo Caravan park. They put in highway standard roads around the sites at a cost of $3.6M [not the $5.8M as claimed by the Minister, and not the $7M claimed by the Director General of Public Works and Housing. Did she mean it cost $7M to upgrade all the parks? Then why didn’t she say so?

So back to the housing crisis. What is being proposed by the Minister and his Director General? Sell the caravan park and put people already in low cost affordable housing out on the street to bring more pressure on the public housing system. Why? Because the government wishes to create a crisis in the market so that private enterprise can make a killing. meanwhile the elderly, the ‘differently-abled’ and the poor will put pressure on aged care, hospitals and more will become homeless.

Yes Minister, the market does rectify problems, for some.

However no one has yet come up with a strategy to put an end to the housing crisis which is a symptom of a financial crisis which, in turn, is a symptom of a larger crisis of capitalism.

In China they call recent moves against capitalism neo-maoism … what will the neo-maoists come up with to improve a society that has still widespread poverty and social dis-location?

My life as a onetime vagabond and house squatter has taught me one thing learnt in the struggles of the 1970s —  the new left went all out to change people’s minds.

But that is not enough, we also need to change the material circumstances of our lives. Who owns our work, who determines where we live and how we live. I am for the collective, the co-operative approach to housing — not the top-down declaration that caravan parks are somehow shoddy, substandard accommodation. They are not, they do not suit everyone but they are the best form of accommodation for those who wish to live in community, with security and simple lifestyles. The Director General says her department spent $7M and this is too much for the government to bear, even if that figure were true, who says it is too much when you compare it with the cost of housing the people in these parks in hospitals, in aged care homes, in hostels and public housing?

We need to o occupy our workplaces, establish worker control. We need to take over public housing and put it in the hands of residents and workers. The original trust deed at Monte Carlo said that but was never endorsed or acted upon by government or the department.

We need to challenge the director general and government — establish our own sustainable and affordable housing.

Most importantly we need to take back from those who seek to make profit at the expense of human needs.

Ian Curr
11 August 2012

3 thoughts on “From Melbourne to Barcelona: housing in crisis

  1. The 1991-92 Annual Report of Qld Dept. Housing and Local Government and Planning states:

    “The changing nature of demand for housing requires a flexibility to respond to situations of need as they emerge. This openness to innovation was illustrated by the Government’s willingness to finance the purchase of the Monte Carlo Caravan Park at Cannon Hill in Brisbane by an independent trust in order to save it from closure for redevelopment.”


  2. Cameron Dick, as attorney general, dismantled the ‘independent trust’ when he instructed the Public Trustee to take over the MCCP.

    Cameron Dick should be held accountable for why he took control away from residents and handed it to the Public Trustee.

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