VCAT decision permits major development without proper social housing

Darebin Council is disappointed by VCAT's decision to greenlight the Northcote Plaza redevelopment with just 8 social housing dwellings.

Darebin Council is disappointed by this week’s decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to greenlight the Northcote Plaza redevelopment with just 8 dwellings allocated for social housing.

“This is another missed opportunity to build much-needed social housing near local jobs, transport and community services,” said Darebin Mayor Cr Lina Messina.

Not only will the 25 Separation Street development include the bare minimum of social housing, VCAT has supported social housing at the site for a meagre 10 years.

"What’s going to happen to these tenants after a decade? It’s simply appalling that the Victorian Government is passing on opportunities to require social and affordable housing in major development sites where it’s most needed,” Cr Messina said.

The developer, Northcote Devco Pty Ltd, also only offered to include social housing at the site after continued advocacy and pressure by Darebin Council – not because the planning scheme requires it.

“We know that easy access to jobs, public transport, open space and essential services is critical for health and wellbeing. Including sufficient social housing at this development could’ve helped realise this,” Cr Messina said.

Council unanimously rejected the redevelopment proposal for the Northcote Plaza site in early 2021 based on proposed heights and a lack of social housing and community facilities. The owners appealed the decision to VCAT.

“While we welcome the Government’s $5.3 billion investment in social and affordable housing, I must question why the Social Housing Growth Fund’s aim to ‘provide long-term housing for Victorians’ has been completely overlooked in the case of Northcote Plaza,” Cr Messina said.

Council is calling for critical flaws in State planning controls to be addressed so social housing is an essential component of all major residential developments. The current planning controls risk pushing people in need to urban fringes where essential services are inadequate.

“I will be writing to the Premier, Minister for Planning and the Opposition seeking their commitment to address our planning system’s deficiency regarding social housing. I encourage every community member to do the same,” Cr Messina said.