Apartments sit idle as East West Link tunnel creeps up

The Age: Apartments sit idle as East West Link tunnel creeps up, August 17, 2014, arissa Nicholson, Reporter

Evo Apartments under construction in Parkville. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Nearly 100 new apartments are sitting empty in one of Melbourne’s most desirable suburbs, nearly a year after the Victorian government bought them for $90 million.

The government bought all but two of the 175 apartments in the Evo Building in Parkville from off-the-plan investors in September last year, after it became clear that tollways leading to the controversial East West Link tunnel would completely surround the site.

Eight months after the apartments were first advertised in January, 99 remain unleased.

The Linking Melbourne Authority contracted Lilydale Real Estate agent Noble Knight, which is leaking the apartments on to the market at a rate of about 12 per month.

The agents were advertising some of the apartments at $570 per week but the most expensive on the market now appeared to be $495.

The vacancy rate in Melbourne’s inner suburbs is just 3 per cent, according to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.

A government spokeswoman said the gradual release of the apartments was in line with advice from the Valuer General.

“This is comparable with competing apartment buildings in the area and current market conditions,” she said.

But Council to Homeless Persons policy manager Sarah Toohey said she would like to see some of the remaining apartments used as social housing.

Ms Toohey said she understood the authority was acting on financial advice, but said the government should also prioritise finding some of the nearly 35,000 vulnerable people on the public housing waiting list a stable home.

Various Victorian government departments owned unused buildings and pockets of land which could be used to house people, she said.

“Thirty-five thousand [people on the waiting list] is a huge problem and more government resources needs to be put towards that, we need to throw everything we have at it,” she said.

The government spokeswoman confirmed the government had bought the apartments outright and was not making mortgage repayments.

The complex, which features a 20-metre private lap pool, attracted further controversy in January when apartments were advertised for rent without mention of the upcoming road works.

Online listings now appear to attempt to sell the upcoming developments as a positive.

“Next to future East West Link project, Evo residents will have immediate CityLink access to Tullamarine and Avalon airports,” it reads.

“Don’t hold back, live the evolution. Available now.”

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