Court Update & Rally

Emergency Rally
12 noon
Wednesday 7th Jan
SHAC - 272 Faraday St Carlton

Update: On Monday 5th January, Melbourne University was granted permission by the Supreme Court to apply for a warrant to reclaim 272 Faraday St Carlton, the site of the Student Housing Action Collective (SHAC) occupation. Homeless students from Melbourne University have been running a successful housing cooperative at SHAC since 20 August 2008.

SHAC were in negotiations with the University until Thursday 18th December when the University presented a bogus offer to the students, gave them 45 minutes to sign on the dotted line, then preceded to place five private security guards outside the premises. The students refused to negotiate under conditions of duress, but made a counter offer in the following days.

The contents of the University's "offer" was that the University would pay the bond and be the guarantor for four or five share houses for a period of twelve months. The houses would have run according to SHAC's cooperative principles. SHAC would select appropriate students who would then be referred to the University's low income test and the University would subsidise the rent of these students.

The problem with this offer was that the Uni had made no commitment to funding any new subsidised places from their existing rental subsidy scheme. In effect, the students selected for the "SHAC share houses" would have been taking the places of other students who fit the Uni's low income criteria. The Uni already has a small amount of properties to house students on low incomes with slightly subsidised rent (approximately $100 per week). The SHAC students could not accept this offer in good conscience. It begs the question: what was the Uni planning to do with these properties if the subsidised students were to shift from University owned houses to share houses from the private rental market? Would the Uni have used the SHAC scheme to make their own properties vacant in order to sell them?

SHAC received notification on Friday 19th December that the Uni intended to seek a warrant for the recovery of land from the Supreme Court on Tuesday 23rd December. The students won an adjournment, with the Supreme Court Judge stating he wanted to hear about how the SHAC case relates to the new Victorian Human Rights Charter, which includes the right to housing.

Over the Christmas and New Year period, SHAC received legal advice from Barristers provided by the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH). The students were unable to commit to the legal process, based on the strong likelihood that the University's legal costs (in excess of $20,000) would be awarded against them. So the SHAC students made the difficult decision not to engage with the legal process but are now preparing to resist an eviction.

SHAC is calling on their supporters to be on call to support eviction resistance. The Uni has given the final deadline of 12 noon tomorrow (Wednesday 7th January), however the Uni have not yet served a warrant on the students. It is believed that a warrant may be served sometime this week.

The students involved in the occupation are still hopeful of a positive outcome based on the amount of public awareness raised by the occupation, and the political pressure put on the University.

Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Brian Boyd has stated publicly that the Trades Hall Building Industry Group would take appropriate industrial action in the event of a forced eviction. This means that SHAC's fight for more affordable student housing is far from over!!


Anonymous said...

While I sympathise with the 20-odd students who have been staying in the Faraday Street houses, I think the problem with the approach that they have taken is that it reduces welfare policy to a lottery - if you happen to be mates with one of the SHAC people, you get to live rent-free in a house in Carlton. If not, you can form an orderly queue with the rest of the people doing it tough and wait for the government and the university to get to you.

Frankly, if I was a low-income student trying to get housing support from the uni, I would be pretty pissed off that the focus is on a handful of people who want the university to renovate three houses just for them. Your political point is a reasonable one, but your suggestion (that the uni should spend hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating unused buildings to house a small numberof students) is not a great way to use limited resources.

Let's just hope that the securtiy guards aren't too heavy-handed when push comes to shove.


Anonymous said...

I agree with STT.

This "scorched Earth" policy of our-way-or-no-way, man-the-barricades is not helping the cause of affordable student housing.

There is a limited pool of money, and using this on such a high cost per student scheme is not in any way sensible.


Liam said...

So the only problem you see with SHAC is that those inside are friends? If those friends are in need of housing, then i don't see any reason why they are less deserving of a space.
Further, i think the actions of SHAC have put a light on those waiting too long in the orderly queue for inadequate solutions.
And SHAC's proposal is for a student housing co-op, not a free party house where they'll live forever rent free, but a place where a diverse range of students (like STUCCO) can live.

On the topic of costs, i don't know enough to comment. But on our-way-or-no-wayism, i think its perfectly reasonable to reject offers that are not going to provide a great benefit to students in need of housing.

That said, not being from Melbourne myself i may be missing something, as all the info i get is from this and a few other blogs.