Delacombe public housing residents say they are still no clearer on the Department of Housing's plans for them and their homes after government representatives visited them this week.
The state government plans to demolish 66 homes in and around Leawarra Crescent, replacing them with 150 higher-density one, two and three-bedroom developments as part of its 'Big Housing Build'.
Discontented residents spoke out after they were informed of impending evictions by a letterbox drop, saying the department's consultation was inadequate.
Department of Housing representatives went to the suburb this week, speaking to those whose homes are being reclaimed, to discuss alternative accommodation. The Department is at pains to point out it will return residents to the same street after demolitions if they want.
However Marlene Clarke, a resident of Lewanna Court for over 40 years, said she was no clearer about her future after the representatives failed or refused to answer questions about what was happening, and the Department of Housing failed to provide any plans or maps of the development.
"They're (the Department of Housing) sending people up here to tell us, to find out, where we want to live... and they know nothing about Ballarat!" Ms Clarke said.
"They came here, they said, 'Look, you're gonna have to move. What other parts of Ballarat do you like?'
"And I said, 'I dunno what other parts of Ballarat I like - I like it here!' And they said, 'What about Sebas?' (Sebastopol). I told them I need to be on this side of town for my grandkids, to pick up my grandkids, because their parents work and they're in Snake Valley. And they told me, 'Sorry, we really don't where anything is up here, we're from Melbourne.'
"They didn't know where town was. I'm sitting there and I had to point: 'Well town's down THAT way, and Snake Valley's THAT way, and Sebas is THAT way."
Major Craig Farrell is an officer in the Delacombe Corps of the Salvation Army, and has worked extensively in the community. He says the Army welcomes the government's investment, long overdue given the pressure on the social housing sector, but has concerns about existing residents and the uncertainty they face.
'We don't know which houses are getting demolished.' They knew nothing. They don't even know where bloody Sebastopol is.Marlene Clarke
"For many households the notice they may be vacating in the near to mid-future came as a complete surprise," he says.
"The first they heard about the possible relocation was by a letter addressed to 'The Resident'. For people who do not check their letter boxes this was a complete surprise only to have been notified by their next door neighbour. For many residents it was the initial uncertainty about who, why, and where, they would be relocated to and for how long.
"One resident said she had just moved into the area two months ago, after being homeless for a long period, only to be notified that she will be relocated again.
"This is a strong community, filled with many families with children, who have formed close and important friendships, with essential connections to nearby schools and other supports. We have tried to reach out to residents to support them in the way of emotional and practical support during this time. We also welcome the specialist relocation team who aim to work closely with residents but remain concerned about what support their will be for residents' emotional wellbeing, for children's emotional wellbeing considering the possible move to new schools and safety concerns for those at risk of family violence.
"We hope the Department can provide further clarity and reassure residents that all of their needs will be met during what will be a very stressful time and provide the necessary care for all residents. We would rather a staggered and considered response rather than a fast-tracked one that only leaves to further uncertainty."
The Department of Housing says it planned to have the draft masterplan ready for community feedback in late 2020; due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was not possible. Public feedback on the draft masterplan is scheduled to take place from 26 July through to 15 August, the Department says.
"Community consultation is an important part of the master-planning process," the Department wrote.
"Since 2019, Homes Victoria has been working with the community on what the future of housing in the Delacombe neighbourhood looks like. Consultation and engagement has included letterbox drops and on-site meetings with residents and locals - the next step being feedback on the draft masterplan later this month."
The Courier approached local member for Wendouree Juliana Addison for minutes of the consultative committee she was a member of, but these were not provided.
"All they did tell me was I'm entitled to a one-bedroom unit and where do I want to go," Ms Clarke says of her meeting with Department representatives..
"I asked about why they needed to demolish my house and they were, 'No we don't know that, that's nothing to do with us. We don't know what the plans are. We don't know which houses are getting demolished.' They knew nothing. They don't even know where bloody Sebastopol is."