Collingwood Town Hall precinct

Engagement on a new Community Hub in the Collingwood Town Hall Precinct

At the Yarra City Council meeting on Tuesday 30 March 2021, officers presented the results of a feasibility study requested to examine the potential for a mixed-use redevelopment in the north-west corner of the Collingwood Town Hall Precinct. The feasibility study included social, affordable and market housing, as well as community infrastructure.

Council meeting overview

In regard to this, at that same meeting, Yarra Council resolved:

1. That Council: 

(a) acknowledges the extensive work undertaken by officers to develop the feasibility study, and thanks the State Government for its support and the housing industry partners who have contributed to the feasibility study; 
(b) commits to the provision of public facilities for existing and future residents as part of a community hub and civic precinct; 
(c) supports the use of residential zoned land in the precinct (125–129 Vere Street) for the construction of 100% low-rise social housing for older women and women and families in need as a part of Victoria’s Big Build;
(d) does not support Council land located in a central civic precinct being used for the development of private, market-rate dwellings within a large-scale housing development, as examined as part of the feasibility study; 
(e) notes that all options examined in the feasibility study for large-scale housing developments would entail unacceptable trade-offs, costs and risks to Council and the municipal community;
(f) notes that the Collingwood Town Hall precinct is located

(i) in an under-serviced area of the City of Yarra, at the junction of Collingwood and Abbotsford; 
(ii) opposite one of the largest and most densely populated areas of public housing in the state; and 
(iii) in an ideal place to assist and provide important local government services to Yarra’s most disadvantaged residents; 

(g) requests officers explore uses for the underutilised Council land at 152A Hoddle Street and 117–123 Vere St (“the site”) that will cater for the present and future service needs of Yarra’s rapidly growing population, including service gaps identified in Yarra’s Community Infrastructure Plan (2018), based on the key principles and guidelines outlined in Yarra’s Property Strategy (2018) and in consultation with the community and key organisations; 
(h) authorises officers to develop and implement a community consultation and engagement strategy to test community support and seek input into preferred outcomes for the development of a community hub on the site; 
(i) notes the preliminary work already provided to Council and the costs associated with the development of community facilities, and notes that officers will need to undertake additional feasibility work, which will require additional expert advice and resources that are currently not budgeted; 
(j) affirms its commitment to facilitating the provision of housing that meets the needs of people of all incomes in Yarra via strategies outlined in Yarra’s Social and Affordable Housing Strategy including: 

(i) working with developers for the inclusion of social and affordable housing via the Policy Guidance Note: Affordable Housing Outcomes; 
(ii) advocating, as per Notice of Motion No. 20, to the state government to fast-track inclusionary zoning, to ensure a minimum amount of social and affordable housing is included in new developments; and 
(iii) exploring other planning mechanisms that enable social and affordable housing contributions by developers as our city grows. 

(k) continues to encourage the State Government to invest in public and social housing on land that remains in state ownership in perpetuity, and recommits to working in partnership with the State to explore and deliver housing options to meet the needs of Yarra’s diverse communities to this end, including the shaping of a public housing project at 147–161 Elizabeth Street, North Richmond.
(l) seeks a further public report/s from officers on progress before the end of 2021, which should contain advice on:

(i) outcomes of the community consultation and engagement; 
(ii) options and recommendations on the scale and deliverability of community infrastructure on the site incorporating the following services in a community hub: 

a. improved library for the Collingwood-Abbotsford area; 
b. an improved and modern Maternal and Child Health Centre; 
c. multipurpose rooms that could be used as meeting rooms and/or events; and
d. other relevant community spaces which can be either utilised by Council operated services or licenced / leased for use by community or not for profit organisations; 

(iii) possible funding options / sources for Council to consider; and 
(iv) future opportunities for an ideas and/or design competition or for engagement with universities to help inform the future of the community facility; 

(m) authorises Council officers to release the full feasibility reports, a de-identified version of the Stakeholder Engagement Report as appropriate, and records of Council decisions on this matter including those made in Confidential Council meetings; and 
(n) writes to the Minister for Housing, the Hon Richard Wynne to advise him of the decision in relation to the site.

There was a special council meeting called on Tuesday 6 April to consider an alternative motion proposed by Cr Jolly. This motion was not carried and can be viewed in the meeting agenda.

Our role in social and affordable housing

Yarra City Council, like all local governments in Victoria, is not a key decision maker in the housing space. The Federal Government controls the policies which impact housing demand. It provides Commonwealth Rent Assistance and allocates funding to state and territory governments through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

State and territory governments fund and provide housing in their jurisdictions to householders on welfare or low incomes, and enable community housing providers to manage and increase levels of social housing. 

Yarra Council remains focused on the mechanisms within our control to increase the quality and supply of public, social and affordable housing in Yarra. These include:

Providing $50,000 per annum in community grants to promote initiatives that help sustain tenancies, build more cohesive and resilient communities, and address social and cultural impacts for tenants of community housing and those at risk of homelessness in Yarra. 
Seeking provisions for at least 10% affordable housing at significant redevelopments in our role as a planning authority. 
Continuing to advocate for mandatory inclusionary zoning to increase the supply of affordable housing in Yarra. 
Maintaining a courageous and constructive dialogue with the Federal and Victorian Governments, and their agencies, to achieve the best outcomes for our community – especially for low income households. 
Continuing to advocate for increased government funding for services to address homelessness, including more and better public and social housing.

You can view the original report from the 30 March 2021 Council Meeting within the agenda, and the adopted resolution within the minutes on Council’s website. Further detail is also available in these documents: