The return of the problem of Rooming Houses – 2012 Style

This thought provoking article appeared in the stratosphere…

Although higher density is aspirational, slum living for those on lower incomes cannot be.

In Melbourne in the burbs we are already witnessing the carve up of 3 bedroom homes into rooming houses. No legal protection for tenants, and all for the highest rent possible just under the Newstart cutoff for rent assistance.

For many this means eating at welfare service meals outlets with centrelink paying rent direct to the landlord and perhaps $100 a fortnight remaining for transport, clothes, heating and eating.

While housing is a fundamental human right, the provision maintenance of adequate housing standards used to be one of roles of the Housing Commission. They inherited this role in response to inner urban Melbourne slums in the 1920’s to 1940’s and delivered housing to ensure standards would be met for those most vulnerable.

Maybe the lesson is that while everything changes some things remain the same.


The popular cartoonist of the 1930s and 1940s Osbert Lancaster, is remembered for his many critiques of architecture and town planning.  He famously dismissed the growing suburbs of the 1930s of English Towns and Cities for their architectural style and monotony.  He described these suburbs, Wimbledon (London),Childwall (Liverpool), Heald Green (Manchester) and so on as the ‘slums of the future’ and coined the term ‘bypass variegated’ for their style and setting.  But the boom in house ownership in 1930s England was unprecedented and offered a new way of life for inner city residents who could for the first time afford the terms of the low cost mortgages being offered by Building Societies.  Until this point, many families had to live in cramped, overcrowded and often shared dwellings with other families.   In many such properties facilities such as bathrooms, even for families with children had to be shared.  The opportunity to…

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