St Kilda Community Housing was formed as a company limited by guarantee in 2006. However, its history goes back to late 1981 when a number of rooming house residents came to the St Kilda Community Group to raise their concerns about their lack of tenancy rights. This group of tenants worked very closely with the St Kilda Tenants’ Union to lobby the state government for the introduction of tenancy rights (which eventually happened in 1987) as well as for community-managed (as opposed to privately-run) rooming houses.
At the same time, community organisations, such as Sacred Heart Mission and St Kilda Community Group, as well as people who lived locally, were becoming increasingly concerned at the loss of affordable accommodation in St Kilda. This loss was a consequence of both the on-going process of gentrification of the inner suburbs and the growing demand for backpacker hostels from the tourism market. Both of these trends were squeezing the traditional rooming and boarding houses out of business.
From this concern and the lobbying on the part of rooming house tenants emerged the St Kilda Rooming House Issues Group, which was formally incorporated in 1984, and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009.
The aim of the Group was very straightforward:
“To assist with the preservation and expansion of affordable accommodation for single persons, particularly rooming house stock, in the City of St Kilda and neighbouring areas”.
The first President of the St Kilda Rooming House Issues Group was Wally Tooth, after whom Tooth House was named. Wally remained President/Chair of the organisation until 1999. A fundamental aim of the group was the involvement of tenants themselves in the running of the organisation through a variety of consultative and other mechanisms, and Wally himself exemplified this involvement.
In their first year of operation the Group ran three rooming houses, Elenara, Avoncourt and Greeves Street. Avoncourt was also the initial administrative home of the Group until 1986, when the base shifted to Elenara.
The fourth property to be added to the portfolio was that at Carlisle Street in 1986. This was followed by Octavia Street in 1987, Jackson Street in 1988 and the purpose-built facility in Wellington Street was acquired in 1989. In addition to these properties, which are all owned by the Office of Housing, the Group also took over the tenancy management of the Manse building in Princes Street in February 1988. This building is owned by the Uniting Church. A further building was added to the site in 1996 and again the Group became the tenancy managers on behalf of the Uniting Church.
1990 was a year of rapid expansion with the purchase of Da Vinci Court and Wandesforde by the Office of Housing (both of which were subsequently renovated and handed over to the Group for management in 1991) and the completion of the renovations at Seaside in Beaconsfield Parade. Within less than a decade, the Group had become responsible for over 200 tenancies.
In 1992 a new property, Havana, joined the portfolio. This represented yet another departure from traditional rooming house stock in that the building contained 9 one-bedroom flats which came with tenancy support provided by the then St Kilda Community Health Centre (now the Inner South Community Health Service).
A three-year period of consolidation followed and then, in 1995, the Group became the manager of the Brighton Road property although, because of renovations, the building did not become available to tenants until 1997.
In 1997, the Group embarked on another new venture when it took over the lease of a 12-room private rooming house in Loch Street. The lease was held until 1999 when the site was developed for townhouses. The Group found the management of the Loch Street property a challenge because the accommodation was sub-standard compared with those owned by the Office of Housing. But the venture did provide the group with invaluable experience in operating private tenancies.
In 1999, the Group was successful in its application to run the Blessington Street house. Paul Madden, the current Chair of both the Rooming House Issues Group and St Kilda Community Housing, joined the Board in this year.
In 2001 the Group received funds from the State Government under the Social Housing Innovations Project to purchase and upgrade a property in Little Grey Street. This was yet another first as the Group had never directly owned a rooming house before. The renovations were completed by July 2003 and the building was formally opened by the then Minister of Housing, Candy Broad.
More then twenty years after he had first campaigned to help save rooming houses in St Kilda whilst the housing worker for the St Kilda Community Group, John Enticott was appointed the first General Manager in 2004. John’s appointment followed a report into the governance and structure of the Group conducted by Jean Roberts which was driven in part by the State Government’s new legislation to introduce registration for all community housing providers. Out of this emerged St Kilda Community Housing Ltd.
The Rooming House Issues Group has not disappeared! It remains as the separately incorporated advocacy arm of the organisation.
Since John’s appointment, the Group has continued to grow, with the acquisition of two ajoining properties in Grey Street. John oversaw the formal opening of Walter Raymond Tooth House in September 2005 by the acting Premier of Victoria, John Thwaites. The house was named after Wally Tooth who sadly died just two weeks after this. This brought the number of tenancies to over 300 spread across 19 houses.
In 2010 a number of our properties were renovated under the Federal Government’s Nation Building and Economic Stimulus Plan. The first houses to be renovated were the Grey Street properties and Wandesforde. These were followed by Tooth House, Blessington and the front and back parts of Seaside Lodge. The extension to the rear of Wandesforde was completed by December 2010 and is now fully tenanted. Grey Street is expected to be finished in early 2011, closely followed by Blessington and Tooth House. The Seaside re-development should take until mid-2012.
The past few years have also seen a change in the relationship between Community Housing providers and the Office of Housing. St Kilda Community Housing signed the Housing Provider Framework lease with the Office of Housing in August 2008 and in February 2010, we also became formally registered as a housing provider with the Housing Registrar. In February 2010 also SCH became the long-term leaseholder of a private rooming house.