Community housing comes to the CBD
Right in the middle of the city next to Queen Victoria Market (QVM) is a building with a striking red and white façade, which no-one would guess is the home to a number of community housing residents who have been allocated social housing by not-for-profit housing provider, Housing Choices Australia.
In 2021, Housing Choices Australia (Housing Choices) opened the much-needed housing for low-income residents, with support from the state government and a 50-year lease of the land on which it sits from the City of Melbourne.
Community housing is filling a much-needed gap in the public housing landscape, where the number of people on the Victorian Housing Register waitlist is nearing 60,000.
With rent, interest rates and energy costs rising simultaneously, more people are seeking help from organisations like Housing Choices, which lease homes with capped rent to more than 2000 low-income Victorians including people with disability. The QVM building is accommodating more than 50 people on low incomes, and one of those residents is 59-year-old Ray Beckler, who shares his apartment with three pet canaries and a collection of musical instruments he loves to play.
Ray was a welder and boilermaker but found himself unable to keep up with private rent after a workplace accident.
“I was happy as Larry working but once I stopped and the financial freedom was gone, I had to make a lot of arrangements and adjustments. The first two or three years were pretty horrible,” Ray said.
Circumstances meant Ray had to live with his mum in her two-bedroom Carlton home where he stayed for the next seven years caring for her.
After years of not having his own place, Ray couldn’t believe it when Housing Choices offered him the brand-new apartment.
“Having a home is a person’s biggest security in life … it gives you the opportunity to do all of these things as you like and as you need,” he said.
Before he viewed the apartment, Ray had never pictured himself living in the city but hasn’t looked back since:
“There’s lots of public transport options and it has this balcony – that is one of my favourite things,” Ray said.
“I really like that I’ve been able to make this place into what I want.”
Housing Choices Australia has specialist disability apartments available at QVM for NDIS participants. •