Social housing still needed: Sali

Looking ahead: Mayor Shane Sali says the support shown for social housing and the acknowledgement of the urgent need is something the city can harness. Photo by Megan Fisher

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Shane Sali wants to harness community support for social housing to address the problem.

While he said the vote to reject the sale of air space above the council car park on Maude, Nixon and Edward streets ended a long six-month process, there was now much greater awareness of the issue and the urgent response needed.

“It was really important that a decision was made and what comes from that decision is what Cr (Geoff) Dobson obviously highlighted, which was a call out to those within the community that have the ability to effectively bring those things that we’re asking for to the table,” Cr Sali said.

“There has definitely been a lot more interest that has come from this decision and awareness, and that's one really good benefit that's coming out of it, so we're probably excited to see what comes from it.”

In Geelong the G21 Region Social Housing Project has been established with support from philanthropic organisations.

The initial phase involves developing local social housing plans for all municipalities in the region to inform local communities, funders and housing providers of both demand and opportunities.

The second phase will aggregate the five municipal level plans into a regional blueprint and the final stage involves facilitating and driving national, state and regional partnerships to deliver a series of identified priority housing projects in key locations.

Cr Sali said there was an opportunity to harness the support for community-led social housing.

“This creates an energy around trying to get an outcome; there's some people within our community that have already shared some support around alternative locations, we'll let the dust settle and then we can pick up those conversations,” he said.

“This is taking place in Geelong with some really influential people that can make things happen that perhaps aren't looking for a profit, which is important.”

Cr Sali said there would also be conversations with developers to see if they had an appetite to include a social dividend in their developments as well.

He also agreed that land supply needed to be addressed.

“Because we don't have that land availability, it's really expensive at the moment, and these organisations just don't have the funds to go and invest into those properties and then go and put these developments in place,” Cr Sali said.

“Everyone's pointed out locations and we hope now that things might not move as quickly as they did with this proposal because it just required council to make a decision on the air space, but if we can have the influence of some people within our community that have ability to open up opportunities sooner rather than later, then why wouldn't we want to work with them?”

Cr Sali said there were no real winners in the debate over the air space, and he wouldn’t want it to be seen as a message that social housing wasn’t wanted, or needed, in the city.

“We had to make a decision on whether we want to sell the air space for this proposal and it wasn't voted in favour,” he said.

“That doesn't mean we completely dismiss what they want to do, we now work with each other to try and find another location where you just go back to the drawing board.”