Built to rent and ruin

Built to rent and ruin
Barbara Francis & Rus Littleson

An inner-city apartment resident has written to We Live Here with a horror story of dealing with “visiting drunks lacking self-awareness” in a neighbouring property.

The story has its genesis in a decade-old example of bipartisan government ineptitude, as our correspondent writes:

“Our neighbour is the gargantuan 175-unit ‘EVO Apartments’ that was built under an ill-star. Before the block was occupied, it was compulsorily acquired by the state government in 2014 to make way for the aborted East-West Link. After nearly a decade in limbo, the building was sold by the government as a build-to-rent investment to a funds management group – at a 30 per cent loss.”

“The worst aspect is the short-stay factor. We face constant parties with late-night revellers drinking and screaming in their communal swimming pool with loud music or emerging onto balconies after returning from nightclubs at 2 or 3am and bellowing into the night. In the absence of long-term residents, there is no self-policing of this property.”

This resident’s story should be a warning to the government about the regulations so desperately needed to manage the “built-to-rent” trend.

We Live Here has been trying to engage with the government and opposition parties to address the lack of affordable housing, while short-term letting goes unchecked. We have tried for more than six years to get the Victorian Government to take positive action; it is an embarrassment that for platforms like Airbnb, Melbourne is the most penetrated market in the world.

Will Melbourne City Council step up?

Pre-COVID, former councillor Dr Jackie Watts proposed a motion to the City of Melbourne to classify short term accommodation as a change of use requiring a planning permit. The motion failed to gain adequate backing. Can we expect more support from the council now?

We Live Here is tempted to be sanguine because Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Cr Reece is well known for supporting homeless people and this month wrote an opinion piece bemoaning that “rents are soaring due to a lack of supply in the private market”; Cr Leppert’s Greens party recently made a major policy announcement on regulating short stays.

If We Live Here learns of any plans by the council, we will be sure to let our readers know.

Out of business and out of luck

Nerida Pohl, stalwart residents’ rights champion, has reported that her building’s manager has ceased trading with debts of many millions. Our intrepid correspondent believes a financial investigation is warranted.

Regular readers will recall our coverage of the seven-year battle against the arrogation of the lobby and loading dock by the commercial interests.

We Live Here will monitor this case closely because it is an exemplar both of the chicanery permitted under the flawed Owners’ Corporation Act and the power of residents standing up to the cupidity of developers.

We celebrate Nerida’s win – this building now has a democratically elected committee of residents rather than proxy-backed manager’s appointees.

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