A decade may seem like a long time, but our Wattlewood development was most certainly worth the journey and the wait.
In 2019-2020, we can proudly claim to have finally completed our vision to build Australia's largest fully integrated social, affordable, and private housing estate in the heart of Carrum Downs, Victoria.
In doing so, Wattlewood pays homage to the origins of the former GK Tucker Settlement site, which was established in the 1930s to "uplift unemployed men and their families from the slums of the city to a place where they could find self-respect and dignity".
Wattlewood is now a sanctuary and safe place that many low-income Victorians can call home.
From the outset, Haven; Home, Safe was committed to a staged development program which would allow the construction of new dwellings around the existing and, at the time, tenanted properties.
The decision not to decant the 110 hundred elderly tenants during the major redevelopment of the site was roundly welcomed by those living on the estate, some for 20 years or more.
We weren't just building social housing, it was creating a sense of place for young and old, for homeowners and tenants alike.
In contrast with broadacre and high-rise government-led social housing developments of the 1960s and 1970s, the social housing has been salt and peppered among the privately-owned houses, seamlessly integrating into the streetscape.
Of the 100 affordable dwellings constructed:
Patricia Fielding, better known as Pat, lives in the heart of the Wattlewood development after moving in nearly four years ago.
“I’m grateful I’ve got a nice house because it’s definitely in a much better condition, being new, compared to what we were in before,” she said.
For 13 years before her move, she lived at the Brotherhood of St Laurence settlement.
Many of Pat’s neighbours were “in close proximity to each other in the other establishment”.
Pat is also glad to be surrounded by new residents as well, including lots of families with young children.
Being situated opposite the park, “Auntie Pat”, as she affectionately refers to herself, loves having children around.
“The area is lovely and the house is lovely,” Pat said.
Norma Greenland had been living in a Brotherhood of Saint Laurence cottage since 2003 and moved into her new Haven; Home, Safe property in 2016.
“I moved in about 12 months at least, might have been longer, before the others,” she said.
“The last 12 months I’d say I’ve settled in. I open the door now, say good day to Charlie, my dog at the door, and ‘hello home, I’m home’.”
Norma finds the location to be convenient for the things she likes to do, including her shopping.
“Sometimes I go up to the op-shop and browse around there and look at all the crockery and things. I love doing things like that,” she said.
Since moving to the new property, Norma has begun bible studies at the local Jehovah’s Witness Church.
“That’s the last couple of years I’ve been doing that… It’s a very tight sort of family.”
“You’ve got a bedroom, you’ve got a kitchen, you’ve got a lounge room - what more do you want?”
“Gee whiz, how many hundreds of people would like to have it.”
Peggy Tucker turned 100 during COVID-19 on 16 July. She now lives rent free in our Wattlewood estate.
Peggy wasn’t the first of our tenants to turn 100 and we sincerely hope she won’t be the last.
“I was in a little cottage in the [Brotherhood of Saint Laurence settlement], it was one bedroom, laundry-cum-bathroom and what have you. Very nice, very comfortable, but when I came in here… God, I thought I could have a ball in here.”
The first thing you notice about Peggy’s house is the garden, which is blossoming with roses and clearly receives much love.
“I love my garden… If I ever move it will be a nice home for someone else,” she said.
“I’ve got quite a few [neighbours] from the Brotherhood that live just across the way and round the corner… Now and again we’ll have a get-together.”
“The neighbours I’ve got are quite good.”
Peggy isn’t confined to just her garden and home, so the convenience of the location is perfect for her active lifestyle.
“I get out a lot,” she said.
“The location is quite good [and] not far from the shops.”
Peggy said she has settled in well and loves the house she is in, “as long as I can stay, I’ll stay,” she said.
“It’s my castle.”
For the past seven years, Gerald Cox has lived in the Wattlewood development.
When he first moved in, he was shocked.
“When I actually came in, it was a giant of a place. It was huge,” he said.
He has filled the space nicely with mementos from his life including photos of his family and trophies from various sporting events.
As we sit in the lounge room at the bottom end of the house, Gerald said he finds his house to be very quiet.
“Up here, you don’t hear anything on that road.”
Gerald’s house is one of the closest in the development to the shopping centre.
He likes the “convenience to everything” where he is.
“I’m happy that I’m here for as long as I need it.”