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New resident advocacy group

11 Feb 2016

New resident advocacy group Image

A new advocacy group aims to tackle issues facing inner-city residential apartment dwellers.

Known as “We Live Here”, the group was established at a meeting in Docklands in December.

Group convener Barbara Francis is also the owners’ corporation chair at the Watergate apartment complex, which has been leading the fight against short-stay apartments in residential buildings.

Ms Francis said that, while short-stays was a pressing issue, the group would advocate for reforms in others areas too.

“Our motivation was to reclaim our building as our home,” Ms Francis said. “It’s time our voices were heard.”

Ms Francis told the December 14 meeting that she hoped that a “united and effective lobby group” would be formed.

Speakers at the meeting included Melbourne MLA Ellen Sandell, ALP federal candidate Sophie Ismail, Cr Rohan Leppert, Opposition planning spokesman David Davis and academic Prof. Michael Buxton.

The meeting’s moderator lawyer Tom Bacon said the potential for the new group was the 90,000 owners’ corporations and the 1.3 Victorians who lived in apartments.

“Even if we get 10 per cent of these people, we’ll have a huge supporter base,” he said.

He said We Live Here would also concern itself with the safety of building materials, amenity and privacy issues and the practice of developers setting up owners’ corporations and subsequently awarding lucrative, long-term contracts to affiliates.

Mr Davis spoke sympathetically about the issues that high-density dwellers faced, but he did not pledge any Opposition policy support to address the problems.

Ms Ismail said she would take the concerns expressed at the meeting back to Planning Minister Richard Wynne.  She said that, while there was a certain inevitability about the sharing economy, regulators needed to ensure that private interests did not benefit at the expense of public amenity.

Cr Leppert congratulated the group on its formation.  “It’s been a long time coming,” he said, pointing out that the apartment boom in central Melbourne was unprecedented and was taking place within a flawed regulatory regime.

He said VCAT too often forced responsible planning authorities to make bad decisions.

But he also pointed out that only three of the 88 state parliamentary seats were affected by high-density development issues and warned the new group of the enormity of its challenge to influence State Parliament.

Ms Sandell predicted that the short-stay issue was a “sleeping giant”.

Prof. Buxton used the occasion to denigrate high-rise living, a curious perspective considering he was talking to a group of people who obviously enjoyed such a lifestyle.

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