34 Union Street - a really nice place to call home

Should the Owners Committee be involved in Politics? - AHB 2020

More than you realise. Take the issue of upgrading the park opposite our building.

A plan to upgrade the park was part of a presentation to residents by VicTrack, Moreland Council and NeoMetro, builders of the apartment block near Jewel station. It was to include a play area for children, along with other items. Parents with children would have found improvements to the park quite useful and another benefit of living at 34 Union Street.

When the upgrades to the station forecourt had advanced a fair bit I contracted VicTrack, the land owners, to ask when the park upgrade would start. The answer – “the money’s run out so it isn’t going to happen”.

As a consequence I have had several discussions with the VicTrack manager of major projects, written to the relevant minister and received a reply that revealed the assistant who had undoubtedly written the reply hadn’t bothered to find out what he was responding to, met with the Moreland mayor and spoken to several council luminaries and to all the South Ward councillors – and I don’t even have any children who could benefit.

Hope is not lost because there is a chance that Moreland could pick up the tab. The park land is owned by VicTrack but leased to Moreland.

34 Union Street has a resident community of about 90 people plus the absentee owners, possibly another 40. Properly informed and organised we have influence if we choose to use it. We vote and can put forward our views. A committee representing our concerned group has far more influence on our three South Ward councillors and hence Moreland Council than a single voter.

Here’s a hypothetical:

VicTrack has decided that the best way of eliminating the Union Street level crossing is with a bridge over the rail line. The plans available show the bridge starting near Ivy Street and passing our building at a level between the first and second floor apartments. The nature strip in front of our building, including the trees, is to be removed to provide a side road for access to the RMIT car park.

The disadvantages to us are:

  • Access to our car park requires proceeding to Ivy Street, U turning and heading back along the new access road.
  • Noise level increased to all front apartments.
  • View of the park lost.
  • The two businesses at the front of the building will lose much trade.
  • All units will drop in value.

Now I am quite certain that no organisation would plan for such nonsense but if, wouldn’t owners and residents expect the Owners Committee to become very active in keeping them informed and marshalling opposition?

How do owners and residents find out about common issues or let the committee know of their concerns? Communication with the committee is through MIA, and the committee’s communications to its electorate is again through MIA. Of course there is the notice board but investor owners don’t get to see that too often.

This is not a criticism of our property manager. The present modus operandi is a comfortable and effective way to operate that meets the rules. But is that all owners should expect from their committee?

Consider this: Moreland Council has grand plans for Wilson Avenue, the street that leads from the climbing hump and mini-park at Sydney Road and turns to the right at Jewel station to connect with Little Gold Street. Many of the low level buildings in Wilson Avenue are to become apartment buildings within eight years, starting now, and the streetscape is to be enhanced to complement the new buildings.

An Owners Committee representative of well informed owners and residents could consider an association with the OC of the new, larger apartment block on Jewel station south east side and the residents of the even larger housing commission apartments to impress on our south ward councillors the need for some of the Wilson Street money to be redirected to our side of the track as promised.

There will be other far more important issues to affect our quiet enjoyment of life at 34 Union Street and even some quite small ones.

We have a 34 Union St community that needs a two-way method of communicating ideas, desires and achievements between the group at large and the management team – the OC and MIA.

This issue is one requiring our Owners Committee to inform potential voters among our owners and residents about a matter that could affect our properties and the pleasure we get from living here at 34 Union Street.

A few facts about council elections:

  • Most voters haven’t a clue about what council is doing or planning so why bother to vote?
  • Some candidates for election are using it as an opportunity for higher office. For example Samantha Ratnam was a South Ward councillor, then Moreland mayor and now a member of the State Parliament.
  • Candidates often have no major party support and are looking for local issues that could harvest supporters.

This note isn’t canvassing the idea that we should pick a candidate in the forthcoming October Council elections and round up residents to hand out flyers. It is an effort to get the Owners Committee to recognise that it can and should have a role beyond the physical maintenance of the building and the maintenance of law and order within it.

As a body we should let all candidates clearly understand that a renovated park is important to us, and we should also correspond directly with the Council on the matter.

It could also be useful to quietly let it be known how many votes our OC can influence.

A note on who can vote

Both residents and ratepayers can vote in Council elections subject to a few conditions. For council elections, a ‘resident’ is a person who is enrolled on the state electoral roll for an address in the council area. (State rolls are maintained by the Victorian Electoral Commission.)

For council elections, ‘ratepayers’ are owners of a rateable property and up to two owners, not otherwise on the State roll for an address at the council, may be enrolled, occupiers who pay rates under a lease, again up to two occupiers and representatives of corporations who own or occupy a rateable property, one representative may be enrolled. Electors can’t vote as both owner and residents.

34 Union Street has 56 units, 27 are dual ownership so there are 83 owner votes. About half are occupied by tenants. Assume half are semi –permanent and enrolled as voters. We now have almost 100 voters who will be of interest to candidates for Councillor positions at the October elections.