More than a decade ago, Melbournian Anicia Chessell became a widow. She could no longer afford to pay for their home in Moonee Ponds.
She has family nearby but wanted to remain independent says Anicia, “A friend of mine introduced me to Lions Village. My nephews and nieces wanted me to live with them, but I wanted to remain independent.”
- There is a need for affordable housing for older members of the community
- The Footscray Lions Senior Citizens Village was established in 1961
- The new accommodation is scheduled to be completed in 2023
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The Footscray Lions Cooperative Village
“The Footscray Lions Club was established in 1952, back then they were looking at the needs of the community and visited a property in Gippsland where the Anglican Church provided what we’d call today, social housing.
They provided housing for senior citizens with limited resources in that area and the Lions then thought that was a good thing to do for seniors in Footscray” says Bert Jessup, manager for the Footscray Lions Cooperative Village.
In 1961, the Footscray Lions Senior Citizens Village was established. Bert Jessup has been a member of the community organization for 25 years and has been volunteering his time managing the senior’s village for nearly two decades.
The village has become home for many Filipinos in their senior years, to date of the 21 residents, 19 are Filipinas. “When I took over the village it was over 40 years old and the dwellings were fairly humble, fairly small and perhaps were getting a bit dated by community standards.” Bert Jessup recalls.
“There were only a few Filipinas living in the village but as time passed the community grew, the tenants recommended the village to other Filipinos and we now have a community of Filipinos living in the village.”
Opportunity for change
The place was in badly need of attention but with very limited resources they couldn’t do many renovations. For over a year, TANDEM Design Studio has been looking at the possibility of working on the village but it did not have the capacity to begin the project.
COVID hit and everything came to a standstill. “It was a year before COVID hit that the project came about. Then COVID came along, and Jobkeeper gave us the time to consider it properly, then Victorian Government's social housing grants came along and that enabled the project to occur.” shares Tim Hill, director of TANDEM Studios.
The place was so old that it needed to be demolished. In consultation with the residents, the team is building a new place that would accommodate their needs.
The project shed light on a sector of the real estate industry that is in badly need of attention, social housing. “We were doing research on other opportunities, broadly speaking in the construction industry.
What we learned pretty quickly was social housing or housing for people in need is a growing need, urgent need which isn’t being addressed by conventional property developers.” Tim Hill adds “It is a cohort of people, a rapidly growing people who are mostly women.
They are people my mother’s age. We were aware that there was a need in the community that couldn’t be addressed so when the Lions Club emerged as something that could address that need, we became very interested.”
Christmas is a little different this year
Work at the Lions Village has started with the demolition expected to take place next year. The residents have moved into temporary housing.
“We are so happy that the project of building a new Lions Village has started, we are looking forward to our new homes. Our temporary homes aren’t suited for elderly people like us, it relies too much on technology and access is restricted, unlike at Lion’s we can come and go as we please and visit our neighbours,” shares long-time resident Anicia.
This year, to accommodate their needs they will be spending Christmas at the Filipino House in Central Footscray (FCCVI), sharing the festivities with other Filipinos. Maybe the best Christmas present for Anicia and her friends is yet to arrive in 2023 the expected date for the completion of the site.
Another on the Christmas wish list is to see more opportunities like the Footscray Lions Village for senior members of the community.
For Melbourne-based architect Tim Hill, it’s the first step, but more needs to be done.“What’s really revealing is if you are a European based architect, community housing or social housing is a prestigious commission.
In Australia, we haven’t done any work in community or social housing since WW2. It hasn’t happened for ages and the reason being Australia’s property system doesn’t value social housing and it's great relief for us to see the money being spent on these much-needed facilities now.”
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