Transcript by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

10,000th National Rental Affordability Scheme home

Location: West Melbourne

KARREN WALSH: Thank you to our special guest, the Honourable Minister Brendan O’Connor, Bernadette Lynn and Diane from FaHCSIA, Coco Goodson from Contexx, Lesley Dredge from the Community Housing Federation of Victoria.

John (McInerney) the chairperson from – the CEO from Common Equity – I’m the chairperson.


And of course Mr Les Erdi who without his incredible vision, these buildings would not be possible. Mr Erdi’s a crucial partner in a number of efforts that Common Equity is involved in, and Mr Erdi, unlike a lot of public developers actually understands the crucial value of affordability and building stock that people both need, appreciate and can afford. And that’s a rare, precious thing to have in the space of affordable housing. So thank you for that contribution.

I’ve been fortunate enough to reside in community housing since 1990. I absolutely understand the benefits: economic, community, social that affordable housing, secure housing, housing that allows you to stay in place and be truly a member of your community, how critical it is to being a vital part of the society that we live in.

I’m delighted to be standing in the foyer of a building that provides the same opportunity to future people, that this is an opportunity for key workers, people who need to be in our inner city, to keep it vibrant, and to kept the services [indistinct] we [indistinct] for a grand open and available to us.

It also provides a wonderful opportunity to step into home ownership, should people choose to. So it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here today to say thank you. To say thank you to the federal Government for funding this. It is a very important part of a diverse response to addressing housing affordability in our city.

So thank you.


BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  Can I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay respects to their elders both past and present. And I’m very happy to be here today on behalf of the Federal Government – it’s always a great honour and privilege to be just associated by way of coming along and seeing the end product of a massive collaboration between, in this case, Les Erdi who is, as people have already said, a very inspiring figure in Melbourne in so far as the housing industry is concerned. And of course Common Equity Housing who have been a very important partner with the Federal Government in providing, I think some vision, and great effort to realise our ambition to increase the affordable housing stock, not just in the city, but beyond this magnificent urban centre.

And so for me, I know these things are going on. I get briefs that this construction has been complete. I count up the numbers of dwelling that have been constructed. In fact, today we’ve announced that this is really now the completion of 10,000 of the NRAS dwellings, so today is effectively an important milestone for the National Rental Affordability Scheme.


Therefore everybody in the room is of course partners in that very important milestone.

As Karren already said, it’s very important, I believe, that we have affordable housing in this country. It is just unacceptable that people who might be on reasonable wages cannot find a place to rent in certain parts of Melbourne, certain parts of Victoria, and indeed certain parts of Australia.

And the other important aspect, the social dimension to this is –  it may come as some surprise to some – is that there is a causal link to housing stress and affordability challenges and increasing the risk of people being homeless.

I have been surprised in my short time in this portfolio how many people I’ve met who have had ordinary lives, feeling quite secure one minute and, as the result of unforeseen circumstances – it might have been the death of an income-earner of the family, it may have some other tragedy, it may have been family breakdown, it could be job losses – people literally find themselves on the street accessing homeless services after many, many years, as I say, living a decent, ordinary life, without any contemplation that it would ever happen to them.

So when we look at affordable housing, we look at about ensuring there is sufficient access to decent accommodation and that there’s stable accommodation from which people can learn, they can work, they can enjoy their lives.

And we’re very conscious of the fact that it’s important to them and it’s also important to prevent an increase in the risk of families being homeless.

So NRAS, I think, is a relatively innovative model. It is new to Australia and I think that was clear when it took some time in some parts of the country for our partners to involve themselves in this scheme.

What’s happened in the last couple of years is an increased interest amongst organisations like Common Equity, developers and lenders and the people who want to purchase homes and they’ve, I think, shown that by their investment.

So congratulations to everybody involved in this magnificent building and brilliant design, Les.

I couldn’t find an inch or a centimetre of waste. There wasn’t an inch. A lot of space I could say was obviously wasting – wasting away there Les told me. I think he said that the first large construction was in 1967. That right?


BRENDAN O’CONNOR: And before that you came here in 1955?

LES ERDI: No, I came in 1954 and I started to build a non-existent bachelor apartment building in 1955, finished in 1956, in Hawthorn. Then I came to the city and I started to argue with the Lord Mayor who said that city is only six-storeys high.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: What did you know?

LES ERDI: Do you know what I told him? I immigrated here to Melbourne City, this is Melbourne town, it’s a town. We want to make this a living city, we want to make it really important.


LES ERDI: And I got the permit, you know how?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: No, tell me how.


BRENDAN O’CONNOR: As long as it’s entirely above board.

LES ERDI: Mr Williams was the mayor of Melbourne, Woodrow was Deputy Lord Mayor and Mr Williams. Lord mayors come, lord mayors go. I am going to give him whatever he wants.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I’m glad to hear the beginning of that fantastic journey for Melbourne and for Les because really it’s true to say that even in my lifetime, certainly growing up in Melbourne, and I remember being in the CBD in Melbourne as a kid around, you know, five o’clock Sunday, it was like a ghost town and it really was not a city at all. It just seemed to be a place where you turned up to work. There’d be certain perhaps important functions that might occur during the course of the year but there was no soul to the centre of this magnificent city and in the time that Les has been, of course, involved and many others.

I think we’ve seen a transformation of this city and I think it’s clearly why it’s now renowned around the world as one of the magnificent places to live.

So without getting any more grand than that, congratulations to everybody here who’s been involved in this fantastic project and congratulations to all of us for reaching the 10,000th NRAS dwelling. Thank you very much.