WANTIRNA RESIDENTS ACTION GROUP (WRAG)

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ABC Melbourne's Jon Faine interviewing Peter Gray from Wantirna Residential Caravan Park

Residential parks play an increasingly vital role in providing affordable housing. Development company LongRiver bought Wantirna Residential Caravan Park for $35.6 million in August 2016, then hiked up the rent and released plans to redevelop the site with 294 townhouses. 

Many of the 200 residents are elderly people who have lived there for over 20 years. Many of them are pensioners and hard working people with low incomes. They lease the land, but most of them own portable houses, not just caravans. They will all be evicted by January 2018 and will be losing their homes, some of which are worth $200,000. A lot of the residents have sold or are selling their houses for as little as $1500. As a result, they are losing their life savings due to the value of their homes plummeting to virtually zero.

Unlike the legislation in New South Wales and Queensland where people are compensated if they get evicted from caravan parks, these residents in Wantirna are told they're getting NO compensation for the loss of value of their caravans and houses, and NO financial assistance to relocate. They can move their houses, but it can cost up to $50,000 to transport them on a truck. Most of the residents simply cannot afford

Apart from the loss of money and loss of homes, the loss of a sense of community is hard to fathom. The fallout to this community and their families is massive. The residents are feeling displaced, distraught, anxious and angry, not knowing where they'll go and how they'll be able to afford to relocate and start over. They are also grieving the loss of decade-long friendships with their neighbours in what was a tight-knit, safe and trusting community.

The new developer LongRiver is acting legally but arguably immorally, ignoring any pleas by the Victorian state government for compassion and compensation. The state government and the local Knox City council have been talking but not acting. This issue needs urgent attention. In a time where affordable housing is a critical issue and when homelessness is on the rise, if we value both community and affordable housing, then we need to protect our most vulnerable people. The law in Victoria needs to change to bring it more in line with the sensible tenancy laws of New South Wales and Queensland. 

For more info, click here to follow WRAG on Facebook.