Overview

In 2009 Port Phillip Housing Association was appointed the successful tenderer for the Ashwood Chadstone Gateway Project by the Victorian Government. The ACGP was the redevelopment of six vacant sites delivering 210 community homes and 72 private homes. The largest site in Power Avenue and Elliot Street, Ashwood, completed in stages in 2012/13, is now home for over 400 residents across four apartment buildings:

Background

The site had previously been home to 55 units of public housing, that had fallen badly into disrepair and were demolished 2 years prior to PPHA winning the tender.

The other sites, completed during 2011, are now home to over 160 residents:

  • Jingella Ave, 9 three and four bedroom townhouses
  • Yunki Court, 10 two and three bedroom townhouses (private)
  • Euroka Street, 15 two and three bedroom townhouses (private)
  • Winbirra Avenue, 9 two and three bedroom townhouses (private)

As well as achieving the government’s vision for physical renewal in the area, from the outset PPHA invested heavily in community building initiatives to achieve their aim of creating a long term socially sustainable community for both private and community housing residents.

Six key strategies were identified to ensure the social sustainability of this project:

  • Place Management
  • Social Impact Assessment & Mitigation
  • Communication & Consultation
  • Social Inclusion
  • Community Development
  • Ongoing Physical Renewal

Place Management

Since its inception in 1986, PPHA’s approach to housing management has been centred on developing personal relationships with tenants and the community – ‘management’ of housing is done from a local office in the ‘place’ in which the housing is located.  A key element of PPHA’s locally based housing management is being face to face and hands on with tenants, brokering support where needed, and investing in community building activities. This was identified as a critical part of establishing itself in Ashwood, aiming to replicate the successful housing management model.

The ACGP is outside the organisation’s traditional area of operation so plans were immediately put in place for a full time staff member to work locally on the ground, developing relationships with key stakeholders and coordinating community engagement activities prior to a planning permit being issued and well before construction commenced.

Office space was secured through an early partnership with a local community organisation, building the framework for future engagement with the community. A permanent local office was incorporated into the design on the ground floor of the Elliot Street building and 3 staff are now permanent on site delivering housing management, community development and maintenance services for tenants.

Social Impact Assessment

PPHA engaged K2 Planning to conduct a Social Impact Assessment (SIA), which commenced before construction. A SIA aims to identify how a project or development impacts on or changes people’s way of life or their community.

The SIA helped PPHA understand the ‘before’ status in the community and how the project will impact on them ‘after’ it is completed.

Potential negative impacts, such as the increase in population creating higher demand for local services, were identified and placed on an action plan for mitigation. Opportunities identified were used to guide the approach to community development. The SIA also informed the final infrastructure and building designs, for example the new design has enhanced street lighting and allows for passive surveillance on site to improve safety.

PPHA has allowed in the project budget for the SIA to continue for 5 years after residents move in to monitor the impacts and inform ongoing community planning.

Communication & Consultation

As a newcomer to the Ashwood community, building constructive and transparent relationships with the community was identified as a high priority, and critical to how well the local community accepted the project and its impacts.

A Community Liaison Committee (CLC) was established with membership including a cross section of community representatives (local government, state government, schools, police, neighbourhood houses, community services, health services etc). The CLC were the conduit for information flow to and from the broader community.

During the planning phase PPHA engaged with target audiences by implementing a range of activities to provide a robust level of understanding of community views, including regular meetings with the CLC, door-to-door consultations with local residents, meetings with local stakeholder organisations and agencies, and open public information sessions.

Feedback accumulated throughout the consultation process was given equal weighting during analysis, with priority given to issues and concerns that achieved the highest frequency across consultation activities. This approach ensured that the consultation wasn’t captured by any active minority groups focussed on singular issues regarding the development.

PPHA engaged Socom, public relations experts, to assist with the development of a general communications strategy and a media management strategy.

Ongoing communication with the community throughout construction was achieved through:

  • A full time staff member located in Ashwood, accessible for community members to ‘drop in’
  • Membership and involvement in various community groups and attendance at local meetings
  • a monthly eBulletin
  • a regular update in the Community Newsletter distributed to 5000 homes and businesses
  • regular CLC meetings,
  • a ‘webcam’ accessible on PPHAs website to view construction progress in real time

Social Inclusion

During the planning phase, consideration was given to how to increase the sense of inclusion for community housing tenants. The following was identified as important and informed the final designs:

  • Integration of housing tenures –social housing and private owners and tenants
  • Diversity of dwelling types – one, two and three bedroom apartments and townhouses
  • Diversity of household types –very low income and low to moderate wage earners
  • Diversity of life stages – older persons and younger singles and families
  • Accessibility – adaptable housing, accessible services

Integration was achieved through a mix of social housing and private housing that is the same in terms of building design. A mix of target groups and household types now live in the apartments including:

  • Tenants taken from the public housing waiting list and allocations from a local waiting list established by PPHA.
  • a proportion of households on Centrelink incomes and a proportion targeted to low to moderate income wage earners.
  • People with disabilities – there are 5 fully modified units for people with a physical disability, and 10 units are adaptable.

This diversity of household types and the combination of dwelling types will contribute to a more socially balanced community.

Community Development

Community engagement skills and experience were a key criteria in the recruitment of local staff, so that PPHA could assume leadership in the community development activities of the project and wider community.

Initially, PPHA aligned its community development goals and objectives with the already established local Community Development Plan to support the existing activities and invest resources in agreed activities. The initial consultation with the community undertaken as part of the planning process was used to inform PPHA’s first Community Development Plan.

A commercial space for the establishment of a social enterprise was incorporated into the Elliot St building and PPHA has partnered with Berrengara who now provide education, training and employment for young people on site.

The largest building at 4 Power Ave also has a large open community space on the ground floor for activities and events with both tenants and the wider community.

Ongoing Physical & Social Renewal

PPHA sees the AGCP as a catalyst for the organisation’s participation in ongoing physical and social renewal in the area. PPHA now has plans to invest in further redevelopment projects in the local area, and are also investigating the potential for future partnerships with the local council to further enhance the physical renewal of the Ashwood area.