It has been a while since I last wrote public housing – a history of the Ascot Vale estate was the most recent one. This time I ask the question – does the presence of public housing impact the rest of a suburb?
Last year Melbourne newspaper The Age wrote about a council survey of residents in Richmond and Fitzroy who lived near public housing estates:
Separate lives on our housing estates
November 27, 2012
Overwhelmingly, residents at the Richmond estate and those living nearby were concerned about the effect drug use had on the area’s safety. Residents told the council’s researchers the playgrounds were raked every day to remove needles, and women living nearby avoided walking on or near the estates.
”I don’t like my children to go into the gardens. There are people there I don’t trust and needles that will harm them,” said a Richmond estate resident quoted in the report.
Only two in five people from the surrounding area had been to the estate, and this was primarily to use it as a short cut.
In Fitzroy, many said they felt two separate communities were living in close proximity, with the estate a ”no go” zone. But the majority said they were willing for more integration, including removing the perimeter fence and putting paths through the estate, the report found.
They also ran a piece on the effect that public housing estates had on property prices:
Public high-rises keep prices down
October 2, 2012
The closer you live to public housing estates such as Richmond’s towering commission flats, the lower property values become. Data supports what is often an unspoken assumption among home buyers – namely, that properties farther from public housing estates generally sell for more than those close to them.
Five years of sales results in Richmond show a median price of $765,500 for homes within 200 metres of the towers. Beyond 200 metres, the median rose to $795,000, analysis by buyer advocate Paul Osborne found. Being near to housing commission flats has a negative effect on value, he said.
So how about Ascot Vale and the public housing estate there? Unfortunately I don’t have access to a real estate sales result database, but I found some other interesting statistics to look at in the 2009-2010 annual report of the Moonee Valley Legal Service.
Looking at the country of origin of residents, the 2006 census gave the population of the suburb of Ascot Vale to be 12,398 people, with 3,382 being born overseas (27%). Meanwhile on the housing commission estate the statistics are flipped on their head – those born overseas dominate, as seen in the table below. When the two statistics are combined to exclude residents of the public housing estate, the number of overseas born residents in Ascot Vale falls from 27.3% to 18.4%.
A similar disconnect between the public housing estate and the rest of the suburb is seen when examining the unemployment rate: the 2006 Census states that of the 6,372 people aged 15 years and over in the Ascot Vale population only 7.0% are unemployed, but among the public housing residents 83.3% are not participating in the workforce.
The reliance on government benefits is reflected in the median individual income statistics: in the three public housing Estates in Moonee Valley around two-thirds of all households live on an income of under $400 per week. For comparison the 2006 census found the average Australian earned $466 per week, with the average Ascot Vale resident earning $520 per week.
As for the rest of Ascot Vale, having a public housing estate down the road doesn’t seem to have killed property prices: according to Australian Property Monitors the median house price for the suburb in 2012 was $683,000 and growing by 6.8% per year.