Rooming houses rejected

The current pair of rooming houses at 94-96 Langhorne Street Dandenong. A plan for three further buildings at the rear was rejected by Greater Dandenong councillors. 232253_01 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Greater Dandenong Council has scuttled plans to expand a pair of double-storey rooming houses in a Dandenong neighbourhood.

Councillors scrapped a planning officer’s recommendation to add three double-storey buildings to the rear of 94-96 Langhorne Street – making a total of up to 40 occupants in 40 single bedrooms.

Six neighbours objected to the development.

Councillors regarded the proposal as an over-development, unacceptably increasing anti-social behaviour and parking congestion.

“Residents have lived for some time with this facility next door to them,” Cr Rhonda Garad said.

“They consider an expansion of this would be an increase in … disruptive behaviour.”

Cr Tim Dark said “it’s absolutely known … there is always an increase in anti-social behaviour”.

“This is our city … we want to make sure we provide the best housing stock available. We want to make sure we attract the right sort of people.”

The developer withdrew a previous application for four extra rooming houses on the site in 2019.

Cr Jim Memeti said it was “absolute over-development” by a “greedy developer” that was “taking advantage of vulnerable people”.

It was “out of character” for one of Dandenong’s most “beautiful streets”, Cr Memeti said.

Police were called out daily to a nearby rooming house on the corner of Clow Street and Stud Road, he said.

“These boarding houses are absolutely all over the place. We need to make a stand for our community.”

Cr Eden Foster said conflict would naturally arise by placing “so many people” in shared accommodation.

Cr Sean O’Reilly, in favour of the development, said the council was casting an “incredible aspersion” on rooming-house tenants.

“We’re saying this is a city of opportunity but if you’re down on your luck and you need a brief stay at a rooming house we don’t want you.

“Because you’re going to be anti-social and the surrounding residents won’t like it.”

Illegal rooming houses would “flourish” if the council rejected applicants who had “done the right thing”, he said.

Cr O’Reilly said the council would lose if the developer appealed to VCAT. Those costs would be better spent on tackling illegal rooming houses, he said.

A council planning report found the proposal was “reasonable”, providing “much needed” low-cost housing near Dandenong’s activity centre.

“A compliant well-managed rooming house addresses the shortage of affordable accommodation options for those with limited income,” the council’s community services division submitted.

The council report stated there were no recent behaviour or safety complaints relating to the existing rooming houses. A full-time manager would have to be on-site at all times.

The proposal was “highly compliant” with the council’s policies and planning scheme.

“While it is acknowledged the topic of rooming houses can be a very emotive one and that debate on this topic will invariably make reference to badly run (or even illegal) rooming houses, that emotional content cannot be universally applied or used to justify the refusal of such an application.”