February 2008

Preston-based Architect, Christopher Shields, believes a five year housing strategy for the Preston area that involves the systematic re-development of concrete panel public housing will have the benefit of not only improving the living conditions for residents in the lower end of the housing market, but will make a significant environmental impact in lowering the carbon emissions of each home.

“Many of the current concrete panel public housing properties were originally intended to be used for up to 20 years, but some have now been in service for almost 50 years,” says Mr. Shields. “They are cold in winter, unbearably hot in summer, many with large cracks and very difficult to convert for those with disabilities.   These properties represent a major opportunity for the lower end of our housing market to be re-developed to service the community and be good to the environment for the next 50 years.”

Mr. Shields, whose practice has a division that specialises in social housing, says that modern design and technology would ‘radically alter’ the public housing landscape to being re-developed as medium density, energy efficient housing with flexible modular design to accommodate a series of individuals or a family. 

Preston MP Robin Scott welcomes Mr Shields’ contribution to the debate on social and public housing.  He says affordable housing is the number one issue in his Preston electorate.

“Last year I raised with Housing Minister Richard Wynn in Parliament the issue of the poor quality and condition of the public housing stock in East Preston and East Reservoir,” says Mr. Scott.  “As Mr Shields points out, much of this housing is ageing, has poor energy efficiency and requires high levels of maintenance, with some requiring replacement.”

Mr Scott says the Brumby Labor government has provided funding for targeted renewal programs for the area, including a $9.6 million redevelopment of a public housing estate in East Reservoir.

Mr. Scott has been working with Minister Wynne and Darebin council to explore innovative projects for affordable housing.

“We are fortunate that both Mr Wynne and Darebin Mayor Peter Stephenson strongly support the development of decent affordable housing in the area,” Mr Scott says.

“More still needs to be done, and I am particularly keen to see people like Chris Shields apply their skills and expertise to tackle this important issue”

Mr. Shields also notes the growth of community housing as a way to manage these properties for the long term.

“The Victorian government is a national leader when it comes to funding community housing.  In the 2007 State budget, the funding commitment for community housing rose from $60 million to $300 million,” says Mr. Shields.  “The adoption of some public housing to community housing means the State Government can build quality housing for less – due to the contributions from local council and the community housing organisation itself –  and it is managed by the community housing organisation for the long term.”

“This avenue will represent a collaborative, constructive approach to create quality energy efficient, sustainable affordable housing in the Darebin area,” says Mr. Shields.

For more information, contact Chris Shields at 03 9470 3665 or 0411 246 353

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