Led by Launch Housing, the Harris Transportable Housing Project is a first-of-its-kind initiative in Victoria to increase housing for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness using vacant government-owned land. The Project makes use of vacant land owned by VicRoads for 57 new architecturally designed transportable dwellings.
Ending homelessness must be a collective, cross-sector response. This Project is made possible by a core partnership amongst Launch Housing, philanthropic donors, and the Victorian Government, supported by construction partners, including:
- Project lead, property manager and non-profit agency assessing, placing and supporting tenants.
- Harris Capital, who donated $4 million.
Design and construction
The Project is bringing jobs to regional Victoria. The units are in construction now offsite in rural Victoria (Horsham). The units will be transported by road to multiple sites in Footscray and Maidstone beginning in 2019.
Who will be living in these units?
The units will provide safe, secure and affordable housing for low-income tenants with low support needs who have been priced out of the private rental market. The tenants will include people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness including older women and men on low incomes and women escaping family violence. Launch Housing will match tenants to this accommodation based on their income and relatively low need for wrap-around support services. These units will be made available to people currently on the social housing waiting list, where the wait can be up to 25 years.
Where is the vacant land that these units will be placed on?
The Project will be based in the inner west of Melbourne, on multiple sites close to public transport and amenities. The sites include landscaping (public and private); access to public transport, bike racks and private parking spaces; as well as communal spaces, courtyards and community gardens to encourage connectivity to neighbours on site.
Who owns and manages the land?
The units will be situated on land owned by VicRoads, which has been set aside for future road widening. VicRoads has leased the land to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on a peppercorn lease of $1 per year. DHHS has then subleased the land to Launch Housing.
What happens if/when VicRoads needs the land?
The initial five-year lease agreement has no end date and provides assurance that VicRoads will identify other land they own that could be suitable for the transportable units to be relocated, if the subject land is ultimately required for road widening. There is also a provision requiring VicRoads to give a minimum of 12 months’ notice should they need to terminate the lease.
However, VicRoads is unlikely to require these sites for road widening for at least 10 years and we anticipate this housing to be available in these locations for at least a decade or more, providing housing for a substantial period of time.
What do we mean transportable?
Transportable homes are one innovative way of filling the gap in the supply of affordable housing, particularly on unused or underutilised land, to get more people housed. The benefit of the transportable apartment design means the units can be repurposed on other land sites if need be but these units are not your typical “tiny home.” They are not off-the-shelf dwellings; they are sustainably built and uniquely designed for this Project.The units sit on top of a removal surefoot footing system, and during their lifespan of 50 years they can be relocated an unlimited number of times.
What are the environmental credentials?
The 57 architecturally designed, transportable units are designed by Schored Projects with the following features:
- Well designed and constructed transportable apartment units with a working life of 50 years.
- The units have a 6-star energy rating with correct solar orientation, north facing windows for economical energy consumption, and solar hot water units.
- The buildings meet all requirements under the Australian Building Code.
- They will be fully furnished and fitted out for the tenants.
- The units enable tenants to live privately and independently in their own self-contained space with their own courtyard, cooking facilities, toilets and right to tenure. With a place to call home, tenants are empowered to live their own lives, choose who they might want to invite into their home. Each unit also has a courtyard and balcony space creating greater liveability.
Why is it needed?
- The biggest driver of homelessness is the lack of affordable and safe housing, and Australia is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis resulting in an unprecedented growth in the number of people experiencing homelessness.
- According to Launch Housing’s Australian Homelessness Monitor homelessness overall has increased by 14% from 2011 to 2016. Significantly, rough sleeping has increased by 20% from 2011-2016, and in this year’s multi-council StreetCount, undertaken by the City of Melbourne, 392 people were counted sleeping rough across five inner Melbourne council areas.
- Meanwhile, vast tracts of land remain vacant around Australia, including land owned by statutory authorities in road and rail, and local councils nationwide.
How did it come about?
The Harris Transportable Housing Project, led by Launch Housing, is the result of careful research and collaboration. It is built on a grass-roots understanding of the issues of housing affordability in Victoria, the involvement of people with a lived experience, a desire to remove the barriers to delivering more housing, and a willingness from executive managers within Government and the community housing sector to adopt an innovative approach.